CMbE launches new smart technology project

28 September 2020

CarnaudMetalbox Engineering (CMbE) is a company steeped in tradition, having a history going back to 1853 and having been housed in its current factory since 1964. The company has been at the forefront of food and beverage can manufacture for as long as this essential food packaging solution has been mass-produced. 


One thing that is far from traditional, however, is CMbE’s approach to innovation. The company has been particularly successful with leading industry experts in securing Innovate UK (the UK’s innovation agency) government funding in recent years, helping the company to develop improvements to their machinery in line with a long term strategy to incorporate ‘Smart Technology’ to make their portfolio more efficient and easier for operators to use. 


This approach has paid off, with CMbE being awarded the 2020 ‘Queens Award for Innovation’ in recognition of a new machine launched in 2017 which is 75% more energy efficient than the previous model. 


CMB’s latest Innovate UK project is targeting the area of ‘Smart technology’ and is entitled ‘Canvolution’. This exciting project is allowing CMbE to work closely with two collaboration partners from outside the canmaking industry – The Data Analysis Bureau (T-DAB) and Computer Controlled Solutions Ltd (CCS).


The aim of Canvolution™ is to introduce a package of sensors to monitor the operating performance of CMB’s market leading Bodymaker machine, which is used by all leading canmakers in locations across the world as a key part of the can making process. The potential market for this is huge, should the expected benefits from the project be realised. 


Using data collected from sensors inside the Bodymaker, the high-speed metal forming processes occurring inside the machine will be monitored constantly in real time, which is a first for the industry. A Bodymaker typically operates at speeds of up to 350 cans per minute and is subject to high loads and vibrations during each stroke, this may lead to the machine losing its precise settings resulting in poor quality cans, or stoppages due to internal wrecks (known as ‘tear offs’) which lead to lost production. 


“Of all the many processes involved in making 2 piece cans, by far the most critical is the drawing and ironing of the metal cup performed by a Bodymaker,” says Daniel Egerton, Technical Manager at Carnaud Metalbox. “A can plant typically has multiple machines running at high speed, which need constant attention from skilled operators.” 


The high speed and harsh vibrations make it hard to collect the data. Millions of readings need to be processed and interpreted, before passing results to the operators who can then improve efficiency and throughput. This is essential in an industry where production in a typical can plant is measured in millions of cans per day, and demand for cans is expected to grow as the product continues to replace plastic bottles due to the environmental benefits of infinitely recyclable metal cans. 


By partnering with T-DAB and CCS, CarnaudMetalbox Engineering are well placed to overcome these challenges by tapping into the specialist knowledge of the respective companies. 


“By working closely with our collaboration partners I expect that the Canvolution project will lead to a steep change in the understanding of the Bodymaker process, and the resulting insights will offer an amazing range of benefits to our customers,” continues Egerton. “This is in-line with the desire of all the big global canmakers to move towards an industry 4.0 approach for all the machines in their plants."


Computer Controlled Solutions Ltd (CCS) provide high speed data acquisition and control systems used in many state-of-the-art applications for R&D and production test machines. They have worked with companies including BAE Systems, UTC Aerospace, Bentley Motors, and Red Bull F1. 


Paul Riley, the MD of CCS Ltd has been in this area of work for many years with a background in physics, software engineering and electronics. 


“CCS’s experiences working in other industries means we are well placed to bring the best of current technology to the Canvolution project”. 


CCS will be developing a prototype system capable of gathering data at high speed from a range of transducers and digital inputs around the Bodymaker. Real-time parallel processing of data will allow for the detection and filtration of sub microsecond features during the canmaking process. 


The Data Analysis Bureau (T-DAB) develops custom data analytics tools for business, using a core team of data scientists & engineers. They utilise a technology-agnostic development methodology, combining cutting edge research and industry applications to deliver bespoke machine learning and data-driven analytics.


T-DAB will be bringing their expertise in three areas. Firstly, they will be designing and building the required advanced cloud data architecture and pipelines to ingest, process, and store data, as well as train machine-learning models and deploy them for making predictions on live data. Secondly, T-DAB will then carry out development to train, tune, test, validate and benchmark algorithms for both anomaly detection and time-to-event prediction of spoilage events. This will use the latest advances in deep learning methods and be informed heavily by the research carried out by T-DAB on the application of machine learning to intelligent control and automation. Finally, T-DAB will be responsible for building the interactive reporting interfaces to clearly present information to the user for time to critical event reporting, warning of anomalous operation, and diagnostic analytics. 


“T-DAB are particularly excited to be involved in this collaboration project,” says George Hancock, T-DAB’s Head of Business Development. “Using our previous experience within other industries, and cutting edge research, T-DAB will develop and deliver a cloud hosted predictive analytics solution to support CMbE and their extensive customer base”. 


By the end of the Canvolution project, CMbE expect to have a commercially available product incorporating all the technology developed by T-DAB and CCS into a retrofit package, which is sure to prove popular with CMbE’s customers. With an installed base of over 1,200 Bodymakers across the world, the potential for this is huge. 


“As part of CMbE’s long term strategy of developing the aftermarket side of the business, the product developed during Canvolution will allow us to offer customers a new level of enhanced service,” says Marc Hoche, CMbE’s Head of Sales. “with a reduction in the skill level of operators on site (due to retirement) and an ever increasing demand for efficiency, the door is open for us to move into new areas such as remote monitoring of machines, service contracts including preventative maintenance, and other ambitious approaches which are made possible with a product such as Canvolution."


Innovate UK drives productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses to develop and realise the potential of new ideas. We connect businesses to the partners, customers and investors that can help them turn ideas into commercially successful products and services and business growth. We fund business and research collaborations to accelerate innovation and drive business investment into R&D. Our support is available to businesses across all economic sectors, value chains and UK regions. Innovate UK is part of UK Research and Innovation. 


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