Fast, Reliable Connections Help Keep Krones Bottling Machinery Moving

June 4, 2010
The German machine manufacturer reduces installation and downtime using patented, push-to-lock connector technology.

Reliability, safety and cleanliness are critical concerns in the food and beverage industry. Companies must meet stringent government regulations that help ensure product safety. As a result, food and beverage processing systems and equipment must withstand high temperatures and high pressure washdowns to prevent bacteria growth and cross contamination.

Executives at Krones (www.krones.com/en), a developer and manufacturer of bottling machinery headquartered in Germany, found that a common question asked on the plant floor is, “Do I need to tighten this threaded connector a little more?” If the nut on a standard M12 screwed connection is not tightened enough, moisture will penetrate and vibration could loosen the connection, leading to intermittent signals. However, overtightening can cause damage to the axial compression seal, resulting in the penetration of moisture, short circuits and downtime.

Krones needed connection technology that permitted fast, reliable, operator-independent connections. Traditional M12 threaded connections are tightened by compressing an axial O-ring seal at an accurately predefined torque, but still allowed moisture penetration. “Our still water bottling plants fill 12,000 to 50,000 bottles per hour,” says Rupert Meinzinger, manager, filling and closure technology F&E, Krones. “In addition, depending on the medium we have, [the plants] completely foam-clean the machinery every six to eight hours.” Krones needed to minimize machine downtime resulting from connector problems in these harsh conditions.

Krones turned to Molex (www.molex.com), an interconnect products developer, in its search for a connection system that could quickly, reliably and safely connect sensors and control elements in its bottling plants and meet the strictest sanitation requirements. “We chose Molex’s Ultra-Lock stainless steel connection system because it could save us time during installation and maintenance,” says Meinzinger. “The connectors can be fitted and removed without tools, so errors are out of the question. Also, the system is highly resistant to our cleaning chemicals.”

The Ultra-Lock system uses patented push-to-lock technology to provide a simple and secure, operator-independent connection that reaches protection class IP69k. The system is designed to reduce connection errors including vibration and mechanical shock from loosening resulting in intermittent signals, false data, improper sequencing and production line downtime. “Because of its radial seal, the inner and outer diameter is predetermined by the process involved. The O-ring in between seals the connection when it reaches a specific preset tension,” says Bernd Kölle, project manager, Molex. “In comparison to threaded connectors, the Ultra-Lock reduces installation time by up to 90 percent.”

Krones implemented the Ultra-Lock in its Modulfill fillers, designed for volumetric bottling machines to fill PET (polyethylene terephthalate) containers. Control of the filling system is decentralized, and pneumatic control functions are combined for each station in one box, which is located next to the filling valve. The decentralized, modular machine allows quick replacement of one box in case of an outage so the filling process is only briefly interrupted. The Ultra-Lock connection system supplies each box with energy and connects it to the machine control. This approach allows Krones “to quickly and safely connect sensors and control elements in its factory automation systems,” Kölle concludes.

Krones
www.krones.com/en

Molex
www.molex.com

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