A conversation with Harry Brühlmeier, CEO of CAPROSOL AG in Bütschwil, Switzerland
AEROSOL EUROPE: When was CAPROSOL established?
Harry Brühlmeier: We had been working with laser welding for a while already. When our current concept crystallized, this was the basis for the establishment of can production solution (our company name is an abbreviation of these words) in early 2014.
AEROSOL EUROPE: What were the prerequisites and conditions for this establishment and what product was manufactured?
Harry Brühlmeier: We already had some previous knowledge of laser welding with sheet metal and we tried to apply this to 3-part steel plate can manufacturing. Here, great material savings potential quickly became evident for the manufacturing of cans. This was met with interest. Meanwhile, the savings potential is approx. 30%. At the same time, the system investment costs can be optimized. With the Qube-LD, we have also developed a compact system that can be installed in existing production lines. This way, processes can be optimized. Starting from this innovation, we established CAPROSOL AG.
AEROSOL EUROPE: Clearly with the laser you are using an entirely new technology. What does your process look like?
Harry Brühlmeier: The focus is on laser-based steel can production, which was a topic decades ago. In comparison to then, the technology has achieved marketability today. In recent years, laser technology had made great progress and has become much cheaper. With our laser dome concept, a steel can is welded in fractions of a second from three parts (body, bottom, and top).
AEROSOL EUROPE: You spoke of material savings, where do these come from?
Harry Brühlmeier: Material savings is a great need on the market. Using the pictures, it is easy to see how much material a fold requires. Since the top and bottom are welded, only a very small overlapping is necessary. Thus, a lot of material is saved with each fold eliminated.
Added to this is that the welded seam is very stable and has no problem withstanding the required interior pressure of 15 bar and more. Even with pressures above 20 bar, the sheet metal always fails, not the welded seam. Thus there arises a second potential savings, namely in the thickness of the parts used. Especially the body and top can be optimized. In total, given the current state of development, material savings of approximately 30% is possible.
AEROSOL EUROPE: This sounds very interesting, what does your machine concept look like?
Harry Brühlmeier: Actually, we want to be a machine manufacturer, not a can producer. Our Qube-LD, as we call our production system, is very small, with a basic area of approximately 1 square meter. It has a capacity of 75 – 90 cpm. The smallest unit is a double set-up with corresponding output (150 – 180 cpm). Since our cubes are designed in modular fashion, in principle expansion to any production output requested is possible.
AEROSOL EUROPE: So therefore existing lines can be retrofitted with your technology?
Harry Brühlmeier: We believe that a great advantage of the laser dome process is that existing production steps from 3-part can manufacturing can be taken over. Adaptations in the area of top and bottom production are required, of course, since the geometries are different.
AEROSOL EUROPE: And thus the customer benefit is a cheaper can?
Harry Brühlmeier: Both a cheaper can and a more shapely can in the monoblock design. This smooth exterior contour is suited even for smaller series, and for sleeving the cans. Much more interesting, however, are the possibilities for digital printing. Here there is a lot of interest and movement on the market. With our smooth exterior contour, we offer a good basis here for applying this technology to our steel cans as well. We are already working on initial samples. And of course classic printing is possible too.
AEROSOL EUROPE: We are your goals for the future?
Harry Brühlmeier: Laser technology offers a lot of possibilities. In the aerosol can manufacturing sector, there is a lot of potential for Caprosol’s Qube-LD. The focus is on start-up of the first systems, but also on enhancement. For example, we are currently testing the connection to digital printing systems, which offer still more possibilities.
AEROSOL EUROPE: What do you do to meet your customer’s high demands?
Harry Brühlmeier: With the two core criteria cost savings and design, we can currently meet high demands. However the essential is that our technology can be enhanced as customers wish.
AEROSOL EUROPE: Which markets do you regard as essential for the future?
Harry Brühlmeier: We are currently examining inquiries from numerous market sectors.
AEROSOL EUROPE: How do you see the future of aerosol cans?
Harry Brühlmeier: As is widely known, the production figures for spray cans have been increasing for decades. Of course other influences have also caused declines, but the basic trend still holds today. This statement could be summed up like this: this has always been the case and will always remain so. But if you keep in mind what each spray can can do, what a highly-technical, safe, beautiful, and easy-to-use packaging is offered here, personally I can hardly believe that this would all end in the foreseeable future. Year by year, areas of application are added, for example in the food sector. In combination as a cost-effective packaging, spray cans are also sold around the world. An unbeatable combination and a short hymn of praise for the spray can.