Stolle celebrates 500th Concord beverage can decorator

Canmaking equipment manufacturer Stolle Machinery is planning to celebrate the completion of its 500th Concord beverage can decorator with a ceremony at its Centennial assembly plant near Denver, Colorado in February.

The decorator is being built for Crown Holdings, which will have executives at the ceremony. It is the second machine being supplied to one of Crown’s upgraded beverage can plants in Europe. The canmaker operates many Concord decorators in the US, Europe and Asia.

Concords are the most widely-used decorators for printing multi-colour labels on two-piece beverage cans, running at speeds of more than 2,000 cans a minute using remote image registration and inking controls.

They were first designed in the 1980s by Coors at its integrated canmaking and brewing plant at Golden, Colorado. Concords were made by Ragsdale Brothers Tool and Die Inc, which also produced the Ragsdale D&I bodymaker.

Early Concords came with six inking units and could decorate up to 1,400 cans per minute. A key productivity feature was a retraction system that prevented the mandrels on which cans that were incompletely loaded from contacting the blanket wheel. This system, now called the rotary trip, stopped ink from being transferred to the mandrel which would require a shutdown to clean the machine before production could be resumed.

Over the years, Concord decorator manufacture passed through a number of company acquisitions. Stolle Machinery has continued development so that Concords are now capable of printing up to eight colours along with a clear varnish at speeds of up to 2,200 cans per minute. 

The use of a mandrel trip with a facility to make rapid can size changes are key to improving productivity and reducing spoilage.

Stolle says that Concords are so ruggedly constructed to withstand the rigours of 24/7 high speed production, and are so well designed, that more than 98% of all the machines ever built are still in operation. 

Improvements continue, the most recent being Smart Decorator Technology. This includes the Inkjector automated ink fountains and Remote Registration, a system that enables the printing plate cylinders to be registered from an HMI control screen, rather than manually.

Stolle also continues to produce the Rutherford decorator which since 2018 has the option of up to nine inking units. It uses a slightly different architecture with what’s called a carriage trip.

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