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Bottling production gets back on track

Bottling plants use overhead airveyor systems to move empty plastic bottles from the start of the line to the sanitizing station prior to being filled. Dirt and debris that accumulates along the tracks can fall into bottles, potentially contaminating beverages. 

For years, plants have periodically stopped the line so employees on ladders could manually clean the miles of tracks with towels and chemical solutions. It’s a labor intensive, expensive, marginally effective process that creates a potentially unsafe situation for workers.

What if track cleaning could be automated? Diversey developed concept solutions and asked Design Concepts to bridge the gap between idea and reality. The first approach focused on using the existing compressed air source to move a single-use disposable swab through the system. Through iterative prototyping and field evaluation, the team realized that a more robust method was needed to achieve sanitation and reliability requirements.

Design Concepts’ electrical and mechanical engineering teams proceeded to create a new concept consisting of a powered robot and replaceable cleaning head. Leveraging our in-house prototyping capabilities, we created numerous prototypes for rigorous testing on the twisting, turning airveyor tracks of actual bottling plants.

The spring loaded mono-wheel and a single use pre-treated cleaning head are at the heart of the ZipClean solution. The cleaning head is attached to the robot, which self-centers before heading down the track. At the end of the line, the cleaning head automatically folds to trap debris and returns to the start of the track without re-contaminating the track. Sensors automatically control speed and drive functions along the route with custom firmware created by our electrical engineering team. The unit also features a rechargeable power source, integrated LCD screen for system metrics, custom brushless motor drive, LED status lights, and on-board control and recording software.

The ZipClean is significantly faster than conventional hand cleaning —10-20 minutes versus 10 hours. An average bottling site can save $12,000 per year in operating costs alone by incorporating the system. More importantly, the Diversy ZipClean provides the industry’s highest level of sanitation and greatly improves worker safety. 

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