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City University London and Sencon to improve packaging quality through Knowledge Transfer Partnership

City is to use its expertise in measurement and instrumentation to help develop new technology for the packaging industry.
by Luke Nava

City University London and Sencon UK Ltd - a leading developer of sensor and control systems for the metal packaging industry - have begun a three year, £200k Knowledge Transfer Partnership, to improve the quality control of the coatings applied to food, drink and aerosol cans.

Such coatings are used internally to protect cans' contents and externally for branding. Currently, manufacturers are often limited to measuring their relative thickness using capacitive sensors, which can be inaccurate.

The partnership will develop a robust, low-cost optical sensor system that is capable of measuring absolute thickness instead, enabling manufacturers to check more accurately that cans are the correct colour and provide sufficient defence against contamination.

During the project, City will share its significant experience in measurement and instrumentation - the teaching and research of which has been a focus for the University since its foundation in 1894 - helping Sencon to develop two new systems.

The work will be led by Professor Panos Liatsis, Head of City's Information Engineering and Medical Imaging Group, who says: "The majority of commercial optical coating thickness sensors are intended for use in the laboratory. Through this enterprise partnership, we will learn more about the potential industrial uses for such technology and draw on our knowledge to benefit manufacturers."

"The partnership will allow our in-house development team to learn from City's extensive expertise in sensor technology, keeping our products up-to-date and ensuring that we retain our strong position in the global packaging market."

Paul Craddock, UK CEO, Sencon

The first of the two new systems will be a high-end, automatic thickness gauge based on a highly specialised interferometer, with City and Sencon developing new software tools, advanced algorithms and signal acquisition technology, to enable its deployment in a variety of applications at packaging manufacturing sites globally.

The collaboration is funded with £136k from the Technology Strategy Board and is part of the UK-wide Knowledge Transfer Partnerships programme, which helps businesses to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of the knowledge, technology and skills found within the UK.

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City, University of London is an independent member institution of the University of London. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University of London consists of 18 independent member institutions with outstanding global reputations and several prestigious central academic bodies and activities.