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Student’s Control Device Speeds Process for Perfume Manufacturers

Chad E. Wagner touches a collet, which lowers to crimp the metal valve onto the glass perfume bottle.With his senior project, a Pennsylvania College of Technology student proved he could create an electronic process for bottling perfume that large companies, including French manufacturer Chanel, didn’t believe could be accomplished.

Chad E. Wagner, Williamsport, is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Electronics Engineering Technology. He created a control device that will allow metal valves on the tops of perfume bottles to be squeezed closed or “crimped” while moving along a conveyor belt.

His stepfather, Rich Caswell, owns Caswell Machine Works in Leeper, which designs the machinery to crimp the tops of bottles for perfume, cosmetic, and pharmaceutical companies around the world. Some of his clients include Chanel and Avon. Typically, Wagner explained, Caswell’s clients buy the crimping machinery and create their own software to make it run as part of their production line. But Caswell asked Wagner to create a working display that would allow him to show clients how his equipment operates.

Wagner worked at Caswell Machine Works during the summer as a Cooperative Education experience. He engineered both the hardware switches and sensors and the software to make the automated system work. The software was developed for a programmable logic controller or PLC.

At many factories, a machine stops the bottle and checks to make sure it is full before crimping the valve to the top, but both Wagner and Caswell believed that machines should be able to crimp the valve without stopping the process. Wagner said this requires less time and fewer moving parts.

“Chanel didn’t believe it could be done,” Wagner said.

He said the company hadn’t implemented such a system on its own because as a conveyor belt ages, it sometimes moves slower, which would mean the timing of the crimping device which lowers to meet each bottle would be wrong, and some bottles could be missed. Increasing the number of bottles on the belt at one time could have the same slowing effect.

But Wagner developed an optical encoder that determines the speed of the conveyor belt, so no matter what speed the belt is traveling, the crimper can crimp every bottle. It is one of three sensors on his system. The second sensor determines whether the bottle is full as it travels past. If a bottle is not full, it is not crimped and is retrieved later from the production line. This saves the atomizer a relatively expensive part. The third sensor tells the machine that the bottle has arrived, and it is time to lower the crimper.

“The Electronics Program is very proud of Chad and his senior project,” said Darrel A. Dolph, assistant professor of electronics and Wagner’s senior-project adviser. “Both are indicative of our graduates and our senior-projects program.”

Wagner said a company in Florida has contacted Caswell Machine Works and is interested in buying an automated crimping machine like the one he engineered. If the sale is completed, Wagner will travel to Florida to reprogram the PLC to work with that company’s process.

“I could have just made (Caswell) a lot of money,” Wagner said.

He said he feels good about that because Caswell spent thousands of dollars on a conveyor belt and other parts for his project.

“The co-op was a great deal,” Wagner said of being able to create a device that is useful in a real industry. “If I went to work for Chanel, I would do the exact same thing.”

At the beginning of October, Wagner traveled to Houston as a recipient of an international scholarship from the Instrumentation, Systems and Automation Society. He said he feels honored to have represented Penn College in a scholarship competition in which the other recipients are enrolled at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and colleges in India.

For more information about the academic programs offered at the School of Industrial and Engineering Technologies at Penn College, call (570) 327-4520, send e-mail or visit online .

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