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Cerulean Packing has launched the Q-Test, a fully automated tube testing system for laminate and plastic tubes, suitable for use in the medical, personal care and consumer food product industries.

Tube testing as part of the packaging process currently requires manual testing, which is time consuming and can be inconsistent.

The Q-Test addresses these issues and is particularly suitable for applications where high-quality packaging is essential.

Peter Wilson, global sales manager at Cerulean, said: ‘Tube producers in these industries need to test a number of parameters during the production process to prevent possible product failures and expensive manufacturing downtime.

‘These tests are currently carried out manually, making them labour intensive and open to interpretation with potentially inconsistent results.

‘The Cerulean Q-Test removes the need for this manual testing and offers accuracy and repeatability as well as providing a full history of quantifiable results that can be used to help improve product quality,’ he added.

One of the quality control tests currently carried out manually by tube manufacturers checks whether the weld between the body of the tube and the moulded shoulder leaks.

If the joint leaks, it is possible for the contents to become contaminated or, in some cases, leak from the tube.

To conduct this test, a tube is pressurised with an airline and then immersed, by hand, into a bucket of water to see if bubbles appear.

This is not only messy and time consuming, as well as involving having water in the production area, but the results from this method are also subjective and cannot always be quantified.

Another important test that is currently carried out by hand, using a manual torque gauge, checks whether a tube’s cap has been tightened too much or is too loose.

Tube manufacturers also need to ensure that the joint along the length of the tube, known as the side seam, is within specification.

This is currently tested by cutting a section of the tube with a sharp knife and then examining the joint with a powerful microscope.

These measurements, together with a number of other important checks, are very labour intensive and open to interpretation, leading to inconsistent results depending upon the skill and experience of the operator.

‘However, using the Q-Test, it is now possible for tube manufacturers to carry out all of these tests automatically and have the results logged for future reference,’ said Wilson.

The Q-Test features two measurement modules: Q-Test 1 is based on pneumatics and measures the leak, burst and torque parameters of both plastic and laminate tubes using high-quality precision transducers; and Q-Test 2 adds the ability to measure length, diameter, ovality and side-seam parameters using both laser and high-resolution optical systems.

Tubes can be fed to the machine manually, via a hopper, or by using an automated transfer system.

Q-Test 1 works by inserting a self-sealing nozzle into the open end of the tube, while the cap is removed by a product-specific gripper.

The required amount of torque to remove the cap is measured, recorded and compared against pass and fail parameters.

The nozzle is then used to pressurise the tube to a pre-programmed value, and, should there be any leaks, these are detected by a number of highly sensitive flowmeters embedded in the system.

If the tube passes the leak test, the system increases the air pressure within the tube to establish that the side-seam weld will not burst.

This pressure is maintained for an operator-defined time before the tube is dispensed into a waste bin below the system.

Should the tube burst, the level of pressure can be recorded and investigations made into corrective actions required to minimise wastage and downtime.

Q-Test 2 measures the length of the tube using a laser beam sensing system.

To measure both diameter and ovality, the tube is then rotated through 360deg.

During the rotation, a laser micrometer takes multiple measurements around the circumference to determine the maximum, minimum and mean size of the tube.

The tube is then further rotated and a specialised lens and camera system is used to recognise the side seam.

Rotation is stopped, the tube is cut and the camera is focused on the overlap.

The camera system measures and calculates the side-seam compression ratio and measures the overlap distance.

These values are compared with pass and fail limits and are recorded for later retrieval.

All the captured data can be transferred to a factory management system for in-depth data analysis, giving the quality assurance team confidence in product conformance.

The Q-Test is supplied with an industrial PC, which controls all the mechanical and software aspects of the system.

Results can be printed locally, on a network, or shared on a company-wide database if required, by linking the system to a network via Ethernet.

Cerulean

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