While safety incidents resulting from leaking aerosol cans don’t happen often, when they do, they can be devastating. The release of flammable or even explosive gases or liquids from aerosol containers during production, transport, or in the consumers’ hands can result in loss of property, brand reputation, or even life. That’s why many brand owners are looking for alternatives to the traditional method of leak detection used on aerosol filling lines – the water bath. In the water bath method, filled cans are pressure checked by submersion in large vats of warm water and simultaneously, personnel are assigned to sit next to the water bath and watch for the escape of bubbles from a potentially leaking can. It’s easy to imagine that this method would be challenging even at low speeds due to churn in the water, inattention and/or fatigue of the checker. When line speeds move up to current operating standards – anything above 60 cans per minute – and bubbles form at the speed of one every second, the water bath becomes impossible.
In a recent presentation by Emerson’s Stefan Lau, he discussed how these facts influenced one of the world’s leading contract aerosol filling manufacturers to look for a better way to protect operators and consumers, satisfy the requirements of their brand owner customers, and to increase the speed of their production lines. Like many other aerosol fillers, they settled on the Cascade CT2211 Micro Leak Detection System from Emerson, which they installed on their line after the water bath. Using Quantum Cascade Laser (QCL) technology, with a patented laser chirp technique, a leak from any can is detected and rejected instantaneously as it passes through the system. This means the company achieves real-time leak detection, a result the company couldn’t have dreamed of with the old methodology.
As cans pass under the Cascade CT2211 sample arch, any leaking propellant is drawn into the sample cell where the QCL pulses at high frequencies (up to 100 KHz) in the mid-infrared to identify any released propellant aerosol gases. Software analyzes the resulting concentration profile to identify leaks in real time. If a leak is indicated, a signal instantly rejects the leaking can from the line with no break in production. The system is certified to perform leak detection on production lines up to 600 cans per minute. Remarkably in that instantaneous operation, the system tests all can failure points – valves, crimps, triple points, and seams – providing 100% can testing and accuracy regardless of the shape, size, or material of construction. Operators can rest assured that any faulty can will be removed from the moving production line and the system can alarm if multiple leaking cans are detected, prompting investigation.
The adoption of the Cascade CT2211 has allowed the contract filler to increase their line speeds from 60 to 220 cans per minute and to carry out a quantifiable test regime for microleaks. This ensures that they are fully compliant with test requirements and regulations. Batch performance data is also available, which helps in tracing production faults and rectifying them before further production is affected.
For this manufacturer, installation of the Cascade CT2211 results in full automation in leak detection, with 100% real-time process control, and leaking cans are automatically removed without stopping production. There is substantial improvement in product quality, which allows the company to comply to the stringent requirements of their customers while providing enhanced safety throughout the supply chain – from factory, to transport, to consumer – a win, win, win. Learn more about the Cascade CT2211 aerosol microleak detection system.
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