New solutions to friction reduction on bottling lines are becoming available to help bottlers cope with water-reduction goals and lighter, more easily damaged containers.
Simple physics dictates that a conveyor will outrun a bottle, and the margin is measured not in furlongs but friction. Reducing friction, or line pressure, is a constant battle. Fortunately, packaging engineers are devising new tools to reduce pressure and minimize container damage and other issues.
The most dramatic example is the wave of so-called dry lubricants coming to market. Instead of the soapy water that traditionally has been sprayed onto conveyor surfaces to reduce friction, semi-dry formulations based on silicone, mineral oil with Teflon and other lubricants are coming to market. The first was Ecolab’s DryExx, a formulation of phosphate ester, amine salt and nonionic surfactants. Introduced in 2006, it targeted PET bottling lines where conveyor lubrication was flagged as “one of the water hogs” (see “Surf’s down for bottles,” Food Engineering, March 2011).
Glass bottles on steel belts posed a more difficult challenge, so more recent advancements in dry lubrication have been formulated to address belt friction in breweries’ bottling halls. One example is Dicolube Sustain from Diversey Inc. The Sealed Air business unit developed a synthetic amine-based lubricant for glass bottling a year ago, reports Troy Matteotti, strategic account executive with Sturtevant, WI-based Diversey. Beta applications have since validated the lubricant’s efficacy, and the product is now in commercial roll out.
Reductions in water consumption of 60 percent and more have been realized, he adds, with potential reductions of 80 percent for PET, cans and glass. The lubricant also helps remove dirt and dust that accumulates on equipment surfaces, delivering “a hybrid solution.” Application usually is done with existing soap and water equipment, taking capital spending out of the equation.
Infeeds to labelers, tray packers and other machines are pressure points. Lightweighting has aggravated the issue of container damage, particularly with PET bottles. The typical single-serve water bottle weighs 12 grams, down from 18, states Patrick Nelson, engineering manager with Portland, CT-based Standard-Knapp Inc. The engineering firm’s response to the need for gentler handling in the “zero gap” where massed bottles reach the infeed is a refinement to its line pressure solution. “Zero Gap obsoleted oscillating infeeds,” says Nelson. “Zero Gap II refines the technology to put less pressure on the product and make it less likely lightweight containers will jam or break.”
The key is an extra sensor that meters line pressure by slowing down the upstream conveyor when lane pressure begins to build. The extra sensor is overkill for most applications, he allows, but for bottlers trying to cope with easily damaged containers, “this delivers perfect geometry,” Nelson says. 
For more information:
Troy Matteotti, Diversey Inc., 262-631-4001
Patrick Nelson, Standard-Knapp Inc., 860-342-1100,