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Next time you open a can of fruit, vegetables or soup, give a nod of thanks to Napoleon Bonaparte. Metal cans used to store and transport food trace their roots to 1795 when the French government, then led by Napoleon, offered a substantial cash prize to whoever invented a method of preserving food for the army and navy.
The prize of 12,000 francs went to Nicolas Appert in 1809. The next year, a patent was granted for the idea of preserving food in tin cans and it wasn’t long before food canning became a commercial enterprise.
Two centuries later, the basic concept of a food can is the same, although a great deal has changed in the way cans are made. Today, high speed production facilities, including at Silgan Containers in Edison, New Jersey, use advanced manufacturing technologies to make cans…a lot of cans.
“We make over 4 million food cans a day,” according to Dave McCarren, Plant Engineer-Manufacturing for Silgan Containers. “In this facility, we make cans from steel using the drawn and ironed process.”
Silgan Containers is a pioneer in the drawn and ironed (“D&I”) manufacturing method and operates more D&I production lines than any other food can producer in the world. Rapid production speeds, efficient metal utilization and a one-piece can bottom are major benefits of D&I-produced cans. The manufacturing process works like this:
The new GHS VSD+ pumps also operate at dramatically reduced noise level. “In a plant where hearing protection is required most everywhere, it’s a small extra benefit,” says McCarren, “but they really are much quieter than the old pumps.”
Since Silgan has three lines running 24/7, planned shutdowns for maintenance must be carefully scheduled and executed. “We typically shut down one line every six weeks for maintenance,” McCarren explains. “Because we’re a high speed, low margin business, unplanned downtime is unacceptable, so I’m working with Larry now on acquiring a fourth vacuum pump so we always have a dedicated backup.”
McCarren emphasizes the good relationship he has had with Emmolo and Airmatic Compressor. “They have been servicing our compressors for over 20 years,” McCarren says. “We got our first Atlas Copco compressors from Larry about 10 years ago and still use both the GA315 and GA315VSD. Now we’ve got the variable speed drive vacuum pumps and they’re working well for us. The equipment is good and our local vendor’s done a good job. We go with what works.”
Steel food cans are the most recycled food package in the U.S. and steel is the most recycled material in the world. What is the result of all that recycling? Less pollution, reduced costs and a steady supply of resources for years to come—the very definition of sustainability. By focusing on the sustainability of its products and operations, Silgan Containers seeks to strengthen its standing as a market leader and trusted partner.
One thing you may remember from high school chemistry class is Boyle’s Law: for a fixed amount of an ideal gas kept at a fixed temperature, pressure and volume are inversely proportional. Boyle’s Law also applies to vacuum systems: as system pressure decreases, the volume of air flow increases.
In most manufacturing environments, the demand encountered by a utility vacuum system varies even though the level of vacuum required for manufacturing processes is ideally held constant. But when a vacuum pump running at fixed speed pulls a deeper vacuum in response to decreased demand, energy is wasted.
Atlas Copco’s GHS VSD+ vacuum pump with Variable Speed Drive eliminates this wasted energy. Rather than letting the system dictate the level of vacuum, the GHS VSD+ utilizes precise set point control and automatically adjusts pump speed to keep the vacuum level constant. The system operates at the required vacuum level, never deeper, which optimizes energy efficiency.