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Recyclable aluminum capsules for filling and sealing

The issue of sustainability is becoming more and more important. Recyclable aluminium capsules are very popular.  Ahold Delhaize  from the Netherlands has also observed this. Consequently, a plastic capsule production line currently under construction has been quickly adapted to meet the requirements for producing aluminum capsules, and this offers a lot of technical features.

Ahold Delhaize is the Netherlands' largest food retailer and is one of the largest food groups in the world. The company describes itself as a "leader in the sustainable retail sector". Ahold Delhaize employs 380,000 people worldwide in nearly 7,000 local food, small-scale and specialty stores in the USA, Europe and Indonesia.

A leader in technology

The company is planning to meet the high demand for aluminum capsules that are Nespresso-compatible, by means of a filling and packaging line sourced from Optima. This had to include a filling machine and a cartoner. It had to be able to process different capsule formats and box sizes. "This line was to be combined with both an existing grinding plant and newly-developed degassing silos," says Marleen Winkelaar, Manager Innovation, R&D at Ahold Delhaize Coffee Company, about the challenges of this colossal project. For Ahold, this is their first capsule line from Optima. Optima soft pad systems are already in the factory.
An OPTIMA CFL capsule filling machine carries out the filling and closing process, while an OPTIMA CBF cartoner handles the final packaging into boxes. Describing one of the machine's most important innovations, Andreas Dreschner, the Technical Sales Manager who oversaw the project for Optima, says "This system allows any setting pattern to be generated without having to change formats." This is made possible by a state-of-the-art linear motor system that not only makes the system fast and highly flexible, but also reduces the entire production line's footprint.

Gap Closing unit in a machine
Engineering at its finest: gap closing is the key technical innovation in the system. It means that any setting pattern can be generated without having to change formats.

"Each capsule has its own controllable shuttle that facilitates individual groupings, called gap closing." The system's gap closing ensures that the desired number of capsules are conveyed continuously to the cartoner.
With comparable machine solutions, in order to alter the setting pattern, market competitors have to carry out format changes. With the Optima system, conventional format changes are only necessary when making changes to the final packaging, which takes around 15 minutes.
Marleen Winkelaar also stresses this point. "We benefit in particular from the flexibility of formats. The production line can easily be switched to other carton sizes." The capsules are currently packed in ten and 20 pack sizes.

Turnkey is key

For Winkelaar, what is it about this line that makes it unique? Clearly it's the turnkey aspect. The fact that both the filling process and the cartoning are made by Optima is crucial, says Winkelaar. "Harmonizing interfaces via integrated acceptance tests and stable processes are particularly important for fragile products such as aluminum capsules," explains the Innovation Manager. It was by no means a foregone conclusion that the project would be a success. As Winkelaar reports, the deadline was a challenging one, and connecting the production line with other components that at the start of the project were still under construction also made the project a very complex one.
"Optima was also confronted with several challenges over the course of the project, for example the switch to aluminum capsules, but the staff did their best to keep the project on track and always weighed up all potential options," Winkelaar stresses. The installation also went according to plan and was "very professional". Even the COVID-19 pandemic could not disrupt the timetable. "We really appreciate it, that Optima sent us a systems expert as quickly as possible", says Winkelaar.

Machine for portion packing of coffee capsules - process punching and sealing
Optimum material utilization is assured because the film for sealing the capsules is fed in at an angle and with a punched offset.
Reduced consumption of resources

In terms of sustainability, the system particularly scores points for its reduced consumption of energy and materials, explains Dreschner. Optimum material utilization is assured because the film for closing the capsules is fed in at an angle and with a punched offset. As well as this, the vacuum consumption of the OPTIMA CBF cartoner has been reduced by around 30 percent thanks to the special nozzles. And what's the final conclusion from Marleen Winkelaar? "Ahold Delhaize is very pleased with the production line. We are convinced that this was the right investment for us. Besides, the experts at Optima have demonstrated that they are real partners and are always there to give us a helping hand when we need one".

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