This article was published in the November 2020 issue of The Canmaker. To learn more about The Canmaker or to subscribe, visit https://www.canmaker.com/online/digital-edition/.
Beverage can lightweighting programmes are not the kind of thing that canmakers are keen to share the details of, understandably because of the competitive edge that their success gives.
Metal represents a large proportion of the cost of a can, and increasingly so as productivity increases, so any savings made by a canmaker contributes to both better margins and keener prices for customers.
Lightweighting has been a key objective since the first D&I beverage cans were made in the early 1960s, and significant savings have been made over the years. Typically, in the past 30 years, the industry standard 12 oz. (355 ml) aluminium can’s overall (can and end) weight has been reduced from 19 grams to 12 grams, a reduction of 42 per cent.
But while there was some recent slowing in this process, new impetus is being applied with a number of canmakers pushing for further savings in collaboration with the aluminium coil suppliers.
Some insights into what’s required to successfully cut the weight of a beverage can have been provided by U.S.-based tooling specialist Hyperion, which has been at the forefront of developments for many years, and is now offering higher-performance tungsten carbide tools that are part of the process of working with increasingly delicate materials.
Hyperion has long been working with Lieb Performance Systems (LPS), also U.S.-based, for a number of years, to enable canmakers to use lower starting gauges for their cans while increasing productivity and reducing spoilage.
David Lieb, the guiding light behind LPS, has collaborated with Lluís Miñarro, manager of Hyperion’s Can Tooling business, to provide the advice and expertise for making the necessary refinements to the design and manufacturing of the tooling as well as to the can design itself including the manufacturing process throughout the D&I production line.
Lieb and Hyperion point out the flaws of simply running a thinner gauge coil without making the necessary design and line setup changes to ensure a successful lightweighting project. They emphasise that by simply running a thinner coil and reducing the gauge of the can’s thinwall (between the top wall and the base) without optimising the remainder of the parameters, production becomes more challenging and typically discourages further downgauging.
The problems created by not optimising the whole process may even result in managers returning to the heavier gauge.
“By not doing what’s needed, we create wrinkled cups, higher tear-off rate, increased tool usage, poor necker performance and spoilage issues, and poorer can quality, resulting lower productivity and higher overall line spoilage. This means that the ‘window of runnability’ (WOR) is narrower and more unstable,” says Lieb.
To successfully complete a down-gauging project, it requires a careful application of a designed approach throughout the line.
“This includes improved monitoring and setup of all production equipment running parameters, including alignments, air pressure settings and the like,” Lieb continues. “It means optimising the match-gaps in the cupper, optimising the can and bodymaker tool design to ensure the highest line performance with the lightest possible can weight and optimising the necker match-gaps and maybe even the necker tool design to reduce the spoilage at the necker.
“By properly planning and designing for the down gauge project, we increase the WOR and make it easier to make cans, not harder. This methodology has higher upfront cost, of course, but with the improved line performance, lower tool usage, lower spoilage rates and reduced can weights, the overall saving is much greater.”
In Lieb and Hyperion’s presentation, the steps in the optimised lightweighting of a 12oz 202/211 can weighing 10.6g made from 0.0104 inch (0.264mm) coil to a 9.6g can made from 0.0096in (0.244mm) coil are illustrated. For a typical plant making 1 billion cans a year that means a huge weight saving amounting to 1,000 tonnes of aluminium.
Vital to any lightweighting programme in a beverage can plant is close link with the tooling supplier. Hyperion Materials & Technologies is continually developing and perfecting hard and super-hard materials, including premium tungsten carbide tooling to canmakers.
“Our mission is to apply our world-class materials science, engineering and manufacturing expertise to position our customers to win,” says Miñarro. “For our customers in the canmaking industry, we are dedicated to being their trusted partner to supply both the tooling and the support they need to optimise their operations. We never stop innovating and delivering solutions that drive our customers’ success.”
One of Hyperion’s most important innovations for the canmaking industry has been the development of lighter tungsten carbide grades. Miñarro says that lightweight grades, such as Hyperion’s patented DZ18, provide improved wear resistance when used in D&I bodymaker punch tools. This translates to tools that offer longer tool life, higher efficiency and ultimately more value to customers.
“Because our company is rooted in materials science, we are always developing new materials that our can tooling business uses to introduce better solutions,” Miñarro says. “Currently, we are working on ways to further reduce the density of carbide alloys, therefore creating the possibility to manufacture even lighter punches that will continue to help our customers push the limits of performance and reliability.”
This is vital to canmakers who are being challenged to produce lighter-weight cans while improving plant efficiencies. “Our goal is to be a trusted partner not only on tooling but also on whole line efficiency,” Miñarro says, which is why Hyperion and LPS are partners.
“Hyperion and LPS work closely with those in the industry such as canmakers, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and engineering companies to develop and improve tool designs and tooling materials to create processes that increase line productivity and reduce spoilage.”
Hyperion’s primary carbide research and development base is in its production facility near Barcelona, which also is home to the company’s global Can Tooling Competence Center, and has been investing in its 11 worldwide production facilities.
This has continued during the Covid-19 crisis, Miñarro says, with the company supporting customers with on-site services ranging from training to problem solving.
“Since the beginning of the global crisis, we have remained committed to safeguarding our employees while supporting our customers,” Miñarro says, “and our accomplishments are a testament to the hard work and dedication of our teams across the world.”
To learn more about Hyperion's Can Tooling expertise, visit https://www.hyperionmt.com/en/products/Can-Tooling/.