Driving excellence for can makers

Finishing a necking tool in Barcelona

Lluís Miñarro, can tooling segment manager at Hyperion Materials & Technologies, shares how can tooling manufacturers are using expertise and innovation to help can makers improve efficiency


All images courtesy of Hyperion Materials & Technologies

As the global can making industry continues to grow at a rapid pace, fuelled by new product categories, new can sizes and the favourability of metal packaging as an environmentally sustainable option, tooling providers continue to expand while also developing innovative solutions to help can makers meet rising demand.

Growing with the industry

Naturally, the most basic way to keep up with the demands of a growing industry is to simply grow with it. The construction of new can manufacturing plants, the expansion of existing plants and the additional spare tooling needed to support the overall increase in global can production have influenced Hyperion Materials & Technologies to invest heavily in its can tooling business.

Since the second half of 2020, when this current boom began, we have increased production capacity at double-digit levels, and we are planning for longterm growth at all of our manufacturing sites that support this business.

Formerly part of Sweden-based Sandvik, we became an independent company in 2018 when New York City-based private equity firm KKR acquired the hard and super-hard materials division of Sandvik, which included our can tooling business. For more than 25 years, we have supplied all tools used in drawn and wall ironed (DWI) can forming — cupper press, bodymaker and necker tooling. Serving the can making industry allows us to combine our legacy of materials expertise, including cemented carbides, with our always expanding precision machining competence and metal forming engineering knowledge.

While our corporate headquarters is in Worthington, Ohio, in the United States, our can tooling business is headquartered in our state-of-the-art carbide manufacturing facility near Barcelona where product management, operations, and research and development work together as a global can tooling centre of excellence. We also have manufacturing facilities in São Paulo, Brazil, and near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in the US, that support our global can tooling business and boost regional support to can makers in the Americas.

Hyperion’s Barcelona base

In Barcelona, investments in new equipment and an increased workforce have helped to increase the output. At this site, we produce all types of can tooling, having integrated a carbide tool production process that starts with the ready-to-press carbide powder that we manufacture in our carbide powder facilities, and ends with the finished parts we sinter and precision machine. Barcelona also is home to our global carbide research and development centre, which is focused on developing new carbide grades and technology platforms. We are currently building a 38,000-square-foot (3,500-square-metre) expansion expected to be completed later this year that will increase overall sintering capacity and space for additional planned investments for our organisation.

In São Paulo, we invested in metrology and grinding equipment during 2022. This site supports the can making industry in South America, offering regrinding services and finishing bodymaker tools from carbide blanks produced by our plant in West Branch, Michigan, US.

The most recent expansion of our can tooling business involves Aggressive Grinding Service (AGS) in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, US. Hyperion acquired AGS in December 2021 to boost our overall capacity to produce finished, precision-manufactured components. AGS was for many years a great business partner of ours, with deep expertise in grinding components with high surface finishes and tolerances in carbide, ceramic and other hard materials.

During the past year, we began developing expertise at the site to produce finished necking tools, punches and ironing/redraw dies from blanks made at our other facilities to support the rapidly growing US market. We recently shipped our first batches of necking dies and punches, and we will continue to increase capacity this year and in 2024 to address the needs of can makers in North America.

Barcelona is also home to Hyperion’s global carbide R&D centre

Applying materials science and engineering to optimise production

While investment and growth are great, they can only go so far in providing can makers with what they need. That’s why tooling providers like Hyperion apply materials science, engineering and manufacturing expertise to supply complete tooling solutions to solve production challenges.

As global demand for cans continues to increase and beverage companies introduce new product categories, the number of can sizes is increasing. This can negatively impact productivity because can makers must halt production for tool changeovers on ‘swing lines’ that produce multiple can sizes.

As a result, we developed a solution to minimise the negative impact on productivity created by the need to change ram sizes. We produce punches for larger cans with an application-specific reduced density carbide grade rather than with standard grades. By using this concept, the same ram from a small-sized can may also be used for a larger-sized can by using a lower density carbide grade for the larger can punches, significantly reducing the time for realignment. Our materials scientists developed and patented grade DZ18 to specifically fulfill this need, and several can makers are now using this grade as their standard for punches.

We estimate this innovative solution has allowed our customers to reduce the time required for bodymaker swings by up to 98 per cent, shortening the changeover time from as many as 12 hours to as little as 15 minutes, assuming the designs of the punch and other bodymaker tools are optimised. DZ18 also exhibits increased wear resistance than carbide grades with standard percentages of cobalt and nickel in the composition that the market has used for many years.

We have also helped can makers increase productivity by working with more tested ceramics sources to qualify additional ceramic grades that can be used in necking tools. This has helped to secure the tool supply for can makers who were challenged by a temporary shortage of ceramic tools when global demand increased suddenly.

We continue to conduct further materials development on punch and rings grades to optimise production and efficiency.

One of our long-time partners, Lieb Performance Systems (LPS), also positions us to help can makers increase plant efficiency.

We combine our materials and metal forming application expertise with LPS’s can and tool design expertise to increase line efficiencies and reduce spoilage. This partnership allows us to do more than produce a tool as per the specification because we analyse the design to ensure the tools we supply are capable of making good cans.

Tracking and recording the use of tools is another way to help plants optimise efficiency, and we are deploying combined usage of data matrix, radio frequency identification (RFID) labels and other electronic data transfer methods to support these practices.

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