Last June, some 40 professionals from the glass container industry attended the ‘Bright Ideas. Better Glass’ seminar, organised by XPAR Vision in Groningen, The Netherland. The seminar’s main objective was to align market requirements and development activities on the latest hot end forming (sensor) technologies, such as the Gob Assist/Blankside Temperature Control and the Swabbing Robot.
More than 10 nationalities were represented in Groningen, all users of XPAR Vision’s Gob Assist/Blank side Temperature Control and/or Novaxion’s Swabbing Robot. Having said that, the group of 40 included both suppliers and glass manufacturers: Gallo Glass (USA), O-I Mexico (Mexico), Nihon Yamamura (Japan), Novaxion (France), Verallia (France and Germany), Sisecam (Turkey), Park Cam (Turkey), Bucher Emhart Glass (Sweden and USA), Bottero (Italy), Wiegand Glas (Germany), Ardagh Group (The Netherlands) and XPAR Vision (The Netherlands).
The first day was dedicated to innovative hot end forming (sensor) technologies Gob Assist/Blankside Temperature Control (morning session) and Swabbing Robot (afternoon session). Each session consisted of two parts: In one, the developer (XPAR Vision or Novaxion) shared background, concept, functionality and latest features; and in the other, customers gave insight to the application areas and experiences of related technologies. Last but not least, every contribution was concluded with suggestions for making the technologies even stronger. Collectively, the first day included 13 presenters from nine different companies, all followed by discussions in an open atmosphere.
The second day was dedicated to the theme ‘Smart Manufacturing’, with introductions from three keynote speakers:
- Evert van den Akker (Program Manager, Smart Industries, TNO, The Netherlands), who emphasised such trends as big data and internet-of-things, followed by a wide range of examples from various industries (eg diary processing to aerospace), where everybody and everything is connected.
- Joop Dalstra (CTO, XPAR Vision) shared his views on the roadmap for the glass container industry towards lighter and stronger bottles, produced with zero defects and with minimal dependence on operator skills and lower costs. The main components of this roadmap are sensors, automated closed loops for sub processes of glassmaking and applying robot technology, ultimately leading to a so-called ‘dark factory’.
- Professor Dr Ing Heiko Hessenkemper (Technical University Freiberg, Germany) shared his thoughts on technological perspectives for the glass container forming process, in which he touched on the gob (conditioning, delivery), forming (lubrication, glass property improvement) and post-forming (surface improvement, steps for lightweight glass container production and non-destructive mechanical testing). Dr Hessenkemper emphasised that every new solution should be economically and ecologically beneficial. In this respect, weight reduction was described as the main contributor to both. According to Dr Hessenkemper, today’s glass thickness variations of up to almost 50% hide a huge potential for the glass container industry. In order to realise this potential, stability and reproducibility are most important.
Workshops were organised following these introductions. In small groups, the topic ‘How will glass container forming look like in 2020/2025?’ was discussed, referring to sensors, closed loops, robot functions etc. After lunch, brainstorming results from the group discussions were presented to all participants by each group. Unlimited by constraints for example on economics, many ideas for improvement and optimisation were brought to the table. No doubt, some of these ideas will turn into reality within the next one or two years.
As well as the formal programme, XPAR Vision organised additional events, where participants were able to mingle easily, enter into dialogue with fellow glassmaking colleagues and most importantly, make friendships.