REPRODUCED BY KIND PERMISSION OF AUSTRALIAN INSTITUTE OF PACKAGING
Testing for Productivity
(Information about activities in Melbourne)
Gauging by the audience attention, the diversity of industry sectors, and any other measurement - the three presenters at the March meeting of Australian Institute of Packaging in Melbourne who tackled the subject "Testing Packaging – The Tools You Need" - were exactly in specification.
Each brought along a machine for hands on experience and backed them up with graphical and verbal advice as to the function and benefits of testing packaging materials and production techniques.
Olympus Australia representative Richard Nowak on behalf of Olympus Non Destructive Testing [www.olympusndt.com] a company formed as a result of the amalgamation of well recognised brands in package testing led the discussion.
Equipment and technology have overcome some of the limitations of mechanical thickness measuring equipment, particularly where access is difficult. By eliminating destructive testing, many sources of error, as well as health and safety issues are also eliminated.
So today we have highly specialised thickness gauges using Ultrasonics and Hall Effect gauging. .....
The latter are easy to use and very accurate and when linked to other technologies deliver exceptional management information and allow for 100% inspection.
Unfortunately Richard's Magnamike 8500 machine was not available, but being a true professional he improvised and gave a practical demonstration of the how the machine determines and records the thickness of a beverage bottle. All materials except ferrous can be tested with a Magnamike which is basically a magnet on the outside rotating a steel ball and recording the thickness between the point of the end of the instrument probe and the steel ball. Different size balls are used so that the ball inside can access any "nook or cranny" but the bigger the ball the greater the accuracy.
Ultrasonic thickness testing and other technical apparatus were explained by Richard Nowak who explained that training of operators is critical and that was an ideal introduction to Eric St Martins of SI Instruments who had travelled from Adelaide to address the meeting.
Mr St Martins subject was force and torque and the hypothesis that shop floor testing has advantages over higher priced remote laboratory analysis. His company's expertise is in testing such things as cork extraction, compression on caps and the pressure needed to extract pills for a blister pack. [This proved quite topical for AIP had recently been involved in providing experts to investigate child deaths allegedly caused by their being able to remove and ingest deleterious prescription drugs]
Eric's WHY test answers were to: - provide brand and product protection, safety, product freshness together with material reductions and resultant cost savings. Open ability, reseal ability and functionality are all tests carried out and need to be done with consideration of "customers". SI Instruments evaluate on the final consumer! Is it for children, elderly or infirm consumers or for export to a foreign culture market is the determinant.
In support of shop floor testing Mr St Martins said that due to the skills needed for a laboratory technician the costs increase and often the time delay between production and test results is such that reject packages can be in the supply chain before the lab results are known. Conversely shop floor testing is immediate and when responsibility and the right tools are available to operators their skills improve. It has also been found that operators will introduce more ad-hoc testing and as they are part of manufacture remedial action is immediate.
Mr. St.Martins highlighted the need for clear and concise Standard Operating Procedures, proper corporate culture and easy to use equipment underpinning success in testing regimes. On display was the newly developed Mecmesin closure torque tester and a screen based demonstration of a seal leak tester for packets containing snacks and other food items.
Scott Carse of IDM Instruments drew the short straw and brought the session to a conclusion. His message was that his company manufactures instruments using Australian sourced materials selected by them with the same criteria that they promulgate to customers about testing.
Always set tolerances that are acceptable to the application in order to achieve reduced machine downtime, and material loss but at the same time improve customer relations seemed to be the company mission.
A Coefficient of Friction Tester was on display in the mini trade show area and Scott displayed and discussed a range of IDM Instruments including a Box Opening Pressure Tester, a Hot Tack Tester and a FlexSeal machine that can locate pin holes in seams on flexible package closures.
He gave an example of the new technology. A company was experiencing faulty seals and traditional vacuum testing methods had not detected the pin-holing. FlexSeal to the rescue------pinholes were detected and an inexpensive modification to the sealing bars was made. Result-----no pinholes and an annual ongoing saving of $0.5million.
A number of other testing machines are available and in the IDM Instrument catalogue including a number of niche market applications which Scott described as quirky and left the audience pondering the applications of such testers and wondering about the models used.
After a question period the meeting closed with an accolade and a gift for the three very informative professionals all of whom had brought along some information brochures and trinkets of reminder for their companies.
Australian Institute of Packaging www.aipack.com.au
Australian Industry Group Frances.Regan@aigroup.asn.au
S I Instruments email@example.com
Olympus Australia firstname.lastname@example.org
IDM Instruments email@example.com
Written by Michael B Halley FAIP Reviewed by speakers
Melbourne Wednesday, 5 March 2008
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