An aluminum can is a container made of aluminum and designed for storage and transportation of soft (carbonated soft drinks, tea drinks, drinks with juice) and alcoholic drinks. This packaging, common today, has one indisputable advantage over others - it is suitable for processing as many times as you like, regardless of how long it has been used. An additional advantage of aluminum cans is its low weight, which can significantly reduce the cost of transporting products in such packaging. For example, modern beverage cans with a capacity of 0.33 liters weigh about 25 grams. Moreover, their wall thickness is not more than 0.08 mm.
Thus, it is not surprising that the production of aluminum cans has recently become more widespread. Aluminum packaging is a worthy replacement for the more expensive tin can. The cost of tinplate, from which all banks used to be made, is increasing every year. Other types of tin (for example, black with a varnish coating on both sides or rolled chrome) do not possess corrosion resistance. For this reason, tin containers are practically not used for food products. As a rule, it is used for packaging neutral materials, and manufacturers prefer aluminum containers for capping food products.
Aluminum has good anti-corrosion properties. In addition, using modern equipment with high productivity, the cost of production of aluminum cans is significantly reduced. Aluminum is characterized by good physical and mechanical properties (fluidity, softness, etc.), therefore, products of various sizes, shapes and volumes can be made from it. For example, aluminum is used to produce tubes of complex shape from a thin aluminum sheet, stamped aluminum caps, aluminum cans of various shapes and sizes, large containers, etc. For the manufacture of packaging for food products, special aluminum alloys are used that have certain deformability indicators. These indicators indicate that the material can take any form (even the most complex) without destruction. Such alloys include: annealed duralumin (ADO), twice annealed duralumin (ADOO), an alloy of aluminum with magnesium (AMg2), an alloy of aluminum with manganese (AMts). As a sealing material for sealing the joints and the seam between the can body, the bottom and the lid, a special thin, but strong film is used.
The assortment of companies that manufacture aluminum packaging, as a rule, includes cans of 250, 330, 440 and 500 ml with caps of various types - SOT 200, 202 and 206, as well as RPT 200 and 206. They are used to dispense beer, juice, mineral water, carbonated drinks. The case of aluminum containers can be coated with matt, heat-sensitive and fluorescent varnishes, as well as varnishes with various textured effects, which significantly increase the attractiveness of the goods in such packaging on shelves in the store. Also, many manufacturers of aluminum packaging offer customers the opportunity to manufacture exclusive containers using printing inside the can body, embossing the elements of the can body or its lid, performing laser printing on open keys, embossing and cutting inside the key.
What does the aluminum can production process look like? First, aluminum sheets in rolls are brought to the factory. Then the aluminum sheet is unwound and sent under the press, with the help of which circles are knocked out in it. These circles are the blanks for the production of aluminum cans. The stamping press simultaneously performs two operations at once. First, he knocks a disc with a diameter of about 14 centimeters from a sheet of metal, and then bends them in the form of a bowl. The blanks are sent to another machine, which makes can cases, stretching pieces of aluminum under high pressure.
Aluminum is a strong metal, but even with increased mechanical stress it can be deformed. To prevent this from happening, the machine uses a special lubricant that protects aluminum from breaking during tension. In addition, the lubricant acts as a cooler (when stretched, aluminum, like many other metals, is very hot). Cases of future cans are formed, and their edges are cleaned and leveled. Cans are turned upside down and in this position are fed into washing machines. The sink is divided into as many as six operations. The first two are washing the blanks with hydrochloric acid heated to 60 degrees Celsius, and the last four are the phased washing of cans with deionized water (this is neutral water with a zero hydrogen index), which also heats up to a temperature of 60 degrees. After washing, the jars are sent for drying. This stage takes place with the participation of a drying machine. Acid removes a thin layer of metal from the surface of aluminum, which gives the banks a characteristic shine. After drying with a roller, the bottom of the cans is covered with a thin layer of varnish, which facilitates the sliding of the cans on the conveyor (when filling drinks into containers) and in vending machines through which finished canned products are sold. Inscriptions and drawings on cans are applied using a rotary printing machine, which allows you to apply in turn up to five different colors.
The capacity of this equipment is about 1, 500 jars per minute. To fix a paint coat on aluminum, a protective varnish is applied on top of it. After applying the paint, the cans are again transferred to the drying chamber, where the paint dries immediately and the varnish hardens. Then the blanks are again varnished, but this time from the inside. To do this, use a safe water-based varnish. It forms a protective film, protecting the contents of the can from direct contact with aluminum. Otherwise, the drink may acquire an unpleasant metallic taste, and aluminum may corrode under the influence of aggressive substances that are part of acidic carbonated drinks.
Finally, on the penultimate machine, a neck of a jar five centimeters wide is formed. This is a rather complicated process, since aluminum can be compared with paper in fineness. So that when the neck is formed, it does not tear, the whole operation is divided into 11 stages. After the neck is ready, a special machine forms a curved upper edge of the can, to which a lid with a tongue for opening is attached a little later. The lids themselves are made separately from cans, and are delivered in this form for the production of drinks. After filling the cans, the lid is securely welded on the neck.
Ready-made banks are judged by quality. In large industries, an entire video system is used for this, with which the inside of the can is photographed. Packaging with any defects (dents, cracks, extraneous inclusions, paint from the inside, etc.) is sent for recycling.
The production of aluminum packaging requires a significant investment. So, for example, the estimated cost of an enterprise producing aluminum cans with a design capacity of up to 800 million cans of 0.3 and 0.5 liters per year will be about $ 75 million.
It is not surprising that in our country, canning plants can be counted on the fingers. Three largest enterprises can be distinguished - the Rexam plant (Moscow region), owned by a British company, and two Rostara enterprises (Moscow and Leningrad regions). Moreover, they all appeared in our country only in 1998. Previously, aluminum cans in Russia, in general, were not produced.
The total global production capacity of aluminum cans is over 250 billion products. Moreover, the United States leads this list with a share of 40% of total production. After America comes Japan, Brazil and China. The highest level of beverage consumption in banks is, as one would expect, in America (according to various sources, approximately 50% are drinks and 60% are beer). The market of Eastern Europe is considered the most promising and dynamically developing, where the share of aluminum beer containers with a capacity of 0.5 liters increased by 50% compared to glass containers over several years. In our country, the segment of the market for the production of aluminum cans is characterized by the highest dynamics in the packaging market. In recent years, it has grown to 4.5 billion cans per year (against 300 million cans in 1999).
Of course, this industry cannot do without difficulties. One of the main problems of aluminum packaging manufacturers is the change in aluminum prices. The volume of its consumption throughout the world is growing rapidly every year. So, for example, in 2010, growth was about 13%, in 2011 - about 10%, and in 2012 - about 7%. Manufacturers expect aluminum consumption to double by 2020 compared to 2010 levels. True, their main hopes are assigned to China, whose market is developing even more rapidly. The second problem is the increase in consumption and the rise in price of electricity.
Manufacturers of aluminum packaging note the following areas of development for their business: expanding the number of cans by capacity and size (as an example, the segment of the so-called “slim cans” with a volume of 0.25 liters is given), as well as the development of a new, more convenient and attractive design of aluminum cans. Packaging design directly affects sales, so this factor may be one of the main ones. And an increase or decrease in the size of the cans helps beverage manufacturers to highlight their products among others on the shelf and attract the attention of consumers to their product.
The factors that contribute to the development of the canning industry in our country include the processing of recycled materials that is simpler from a technological point of view (at least compared to glass containers). There are already several companies in our country that are engaged in the collection and processing of used aluminum cans, and in the coming years their number will only grow if a worthy alternative to aluminum packaging is not found. In addition, low-alcohol drinks are in particularly high demand in Russia (the share of their sales is higher than non-alcoholic carbonated drinks).
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