Machine Heaven

by Stefani on 20-May-2009

As I was saying, we’re a little machine crazy around the Ranch.

So, you might guess that when we got the chance to visit a real live factory, we were just about vibrating with excitement.

My aunt works at a bottle making plant, so we pestered her senseless until she finally agreed to take us on the grand tour.

The Bottle Factory

It was big and loud and full of moving metal arms, gizmos and knobs… pretty much heaven on earth for my gadget fiends.

Do you remember watching Mr. Rogers visit the graham cracker or crayon factories? I always loved it when he put on his good cardigan and went to a factory! So, truth be told, I was a little giddy over getting an up close look at how bottles are made too.

Here’s how it works:

First, big trains bring in car loads of little plastic balls that look a whole lot like BBs or Dippin’ Dots. Those are poured into a giant machine that melts them. The melted plastic moves along a pipe until it comes out as a very hot tube of soft, thin plastic.

The green arrow in this photo is pointing to the tube of melted plastic.

The Mold

On each side you can see silver metal plates, right? Those are the two sides of the mold. Just after this photo was shot, those plates moved together over the plastic and shaped it into a bottle.

Next, the bottles come out of the mold and a factory worker (who wears heat resistant gloves so that she can handle those VERY hot bottles) takes off any stray bits of plastic and sends the bottle down a conveyor line. As the bottle travels it is cooled by a series of fans.

Cooling Fans

See the black things that the arrow points to in that photo? Those are fans!

A little farther down the line, a small metal arm comes down on top of each bottle.

Pressure Testing

The metal arm blows a whole bunch of air into the bottle while sensors check for leaks. If there are any holes in the bottle, another arm will reach out and knock it off the line. Any rejected bottles go into a big grinder. The ground plastic will go into the melting ovens and start all over.

A little farther down the line a person with a special light will inspect each bottle for cracks or imperfections.

Light Testing

See, this factory makes bottles that are used to hold chemicals like oil and pesticides – the kinds of things that you don’t want leaking. So, they are very serious about making sure that their bottles meet high standards.

A quality control worker chooses a few bottles from every batch to subject to an impact test.

Impact Testing

She fills the bottles with water and then loads them onto a machine that drops them to the ground. Her test bottles will be dropped four times, and then she will inspect them to be sure that they did not crack or leak.

Once the workers are certain that their bottles are well made, they are packed into crates, wrapped and moved to the warehouse. There, they sit until big 18 wheeler trucks come to take them to the factories where they will be filled, labeled and shipped to stores.

To the Warehouse

On the day that we visited, a few of those bottles didn’t make it on the trucks… they went home with three small boys.

The Finished Product

So far, they have been used in water fights, as time capsules and to hold chicken food. I think we’ve discovered a new method of quality control testing. If those bottles can stand up to use by three young men, they can surely withstand anything!

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