#2196: FlowFenders

I submitted this months ago to an open innovation ‘contest,’ but received no response from the company to which it was forwarded. I really should know better than to get involved with this kind of scam.

The problem is about preventing damage to fast moving and fragile cans on a filling line.


Today’s invention is the insertion of extra, ‘dummy’ items intermittently into the manufacturing stream. These would take the form of closed-cell foam elements, or blanks, each designed to mimic the outer shape of a real can.

The foam blanks would be very cheap to produce and reusable over an estimated lifetime of several months. They would require almost no modification to the standard high-speed filling line (except for some extra software to identify the blanks and avoid attempting to label or fill them. There would also need to be an extra chute for occasional injection).

Each of these foam blanks would have a small weight inserted into its base in order to ensure that it remained upright. The blanks would be much less massive than a full can and therefore require almost no extra power expenditure from the manufacturing plant.

They would be impacted by cans (full or empty), undergo microscale plastic deformation and thus absorb almost all of the surplus energy within the line. This would massively reduce the damage caused to the real cans by hammering into each other.

If the line speed were simply maintained, this approach would lower the rate at which cans were produced. Since the cans would be much better protected from impacts, however, the line speed could be significantly increased so that the the production rate of real cans was maintained.

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