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Title:
RADIAL OFFSET MONITOR
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2018/020207
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A stripper assembly for a can bodymaker (1) is configured to remove a can body from a punch (7) mounted on a ram (4) of the can bodymaker (1). The stripper assembly comprises a stripper housing (13) defining an internal bore through which the punch (7) passes and a radial offset monitor (10). The radial offset monitor (10) comprises one or more eddy current sensors (11) located within the stripper housing (13) or attached thereto. The radial offset monitor (10) is configured to detect misalignment of a ram (4) and/or a punch (7), or a can body held on the punch (7), within the bore. A method of detecting axial misalignment of a ram (4) and/or a punch (7) of a can bodymaker (1), or of a can body held on the punch (7) is also described. The method comprises providing a stripper housing (13) defining an internal bore through which the punch (7) passes; obtaining electrical output signals from one or more eddy current sensors (11) within the housing (13) or attached thereto, and processing the signal(s) to detect any axial misalignment.

Inventors:
RUKAT, Bronislaw (15 St John's Court, Wakefield, West Yorkshire WF1 2RY, WF1 2RY, GB)
Application Number:
GB2017/051717
Publication Date:
February 01, 2018
Filing Date:
June 13, 2017
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
CROWN PACKAGING TECHNOLOGY, INC. (11535 South Central Avenue, Alsip, Illinois, 60803-2599, US)
CROWN PACKAGING MANUFACTURING UK LIMITED (Downsview Road, Wantage, Oxfordshire OX12 9BP, OX12 9BP, GB)
International Classes:
B21D22/28; B21D45/06
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
LIND, Robert (Marks & Clerk LLP, Fletcher House Heatley Road,The Oxford Science Par, Oxford Oxfordshire OX4 4GE, OX4 4GE, GB)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS:

1. A stripper assembly for a can bodymaker and being configured to remove a can body from a punch mounted on a ram of the can bodymaker, the stripper assembly comprising:

a stripper housing defining an internal bore through which the punch passes; and

a radial offset monitor comprising one or more eddy current sensors, the one or more eddy current sensors being located within the stripper housing or attached thereto,

wherein the radial offset monitor is configured to detect misalignment of the ram and/or the punch, or of a can body held on the punch, within said bore.

2. A stripper assembly according to claim 1 , wherein the radial offset monitor is integrated into the stripper housing.

3. A stripper assembly according to claim 1 , comprising a sensor housing co- located with the stripper housing, wherein the sensor housing defines an internal bore and the or each eddy current sensor is located within the sensor housing.

4. A stripper assembly according to any one of the preceding claims, comprising a stripper provided with stripping fingers.

5. A stripper assembly according to any one of the preceding claims, comprising at least two eddy current sensors angularly spaced apart from one another about an axis along which the punch travels.

6. A stripper assembly according to claim 5, wherein the radial offset monitor comprises four eddy current sensors equiangularly spaced apart from one another about said axis.

7. A stripper assembly according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein the or each eddy current sensor is adjustable in a direction orthogonal to an axis along which the punch travels.

8. A stripper assembly according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein said bore is cylindrical.

9. A can bodymaker comprising:

a ram;

a punch mounted on the ram;

a toolpack; and

a stripper assembly according to any one of the preceding claims.

10. A can bodymaker according to claim 9 and comprising a controller having: an input for receiving sensor data from the radial offset monitor; and

a processor configured to compute one or more of ram position, ram trajectory, punch position, punch trajectory, can body presence, and can body sidewall thickness.

1 1 . A can bodymaker according to claim 9 or 10 and comprising an adjustment mechanism to automatically adjust one or more components of the bodymaker in response to detection by the radial offset monitor of a misalignment of the ram and/or punch and/or can body in order to achieve realignment.

12. A can bodymaker according to claim 1 1 , wherein the one or more components is or include the ram, the punch, a domer, and the adjustment is a radial adjustment.

13. A can bodymaker comprising a radial offset monitor, said radial offset monitor comprising a body defining an internal bore and one or more eddy current sensors spaced around the bore and configured to detect the misalignment of an object moving axially through the bore, relative to the axis, wherein said object is a ram and/or a punch, or a can body held on the punch, of the can bodymaker.

14. A method of detecting axial misalignment of a ram and/or a punch of a can bodymaker, or of a can body held on the punch, the method comprising:

providing a stripper housing defining an internal bore through which the punch passes;

obtaining electrical output signals from one or more eddy current sensors within the housing or attached thereto; and

processing the signal(s) to detect any axial misalignment.

15. A method according to claim 14 and comprising processing the sensor data to compute one or more of ram position, ram trajectory, punch position, punch trajectory, can body presence, can body sidewall thickness.

16. A method according to claim 14 or 15, and comprising using an adjustment mechanism to automatically adjust one or more components of the bodymaker in order to correct the misalignment. 17. A method according to any one of claims 14 to 16, the method being carried out while the bodymaker is producing can bodies.

Description:
RADIAL OFFSET MONITOR

Technical Field The present invention relates to a radial offset monitor, and in particular, though not necessarily, to a can bodymaker comprising a radial offset monitor. The invention also relates to a method of detecting a radial offset of a bodymaker ram and/or punch.

Background

In known bodymakers for the production of thin-walled metal can bodies by a "drawing and wall-ironing" (DWI) process, metal cups are fed to the bodymaker and carried by a punch on the end of a ram through a series of dies to produce a can body of the desired size and thickness. The series of dies may include a redraw die for reducing the diameter of the cup and lengthening its sidewall, and one or more ironing dies for wall-ironing the cup into a can body. The area or cradle of the bodymaker frame within which the dies are located is known as the "toolpack". The can body carried on the punch may ultimately contact a bottom forming tool or "domer" so as to form a shape such as a dome on the base of the can. An exemplary bodymaker is described in W09934942.

When setting up a can bodymaker, the ram and its drive components are typically fixed in place on the bodymaker frame. This aligns the axis of the ram with the main axis of the bodymaker. The other components, including for example the redraw and ironing dies and domer, are then aligned with the ram.

Over time, frictional forces and general wear will cause the alignment of the ram to vary slightly. In addition, a high speed reciprocating ram is generally subject to at least some vibration, due to the impact of the ram on the can body and to the variable "droop" of the ram as it moves from and to its fully-extended position. When the ram carries the can body into contact with the domer, any misalignment can lead to the can body end splitting, particularly where the can body is aluminium. If the misalignment is slight, the split (sometimes known as a "smile") may not be immediately visible to the naked eye, and the split may lead to the can bursting once the can body has been filled. This may not occur until the filled can has been purchased. Alignment procedures for known bodymakers are complex and require significant skill to ensure that the machines can be operated safely and efficiently. A typical method of aligning the ram of a bodymaker comprises halting the production line and inserting two gauge rings comprising sensors into the bodymaker toolpack, preferably in the positions usually occupied by the first and third ironing dies. The gauges must be inserted in the correct orientation and must then be calibrated. Measurements may then be taken as the punch passes through the gauge ring on the forward stroke, backward stroke and during and after doming. This process is carried out in the absence of a can body to avoid the sensors detecting the can body rather than the punch.

Alignment and re-alignment of known bodymakers is therefore a time consuming process which requires the can body production line to be halted. The high volume nature of the can industry means that lost production time can be very costly for producers.

Summary of the Invention According to a first aspect there is provided a stripper assembly for a can bodymaker and being configured to remove a can body from a punch mounted on a ram of the can bodymaker. The stripper assembly comprises a stripper housing defining an internal bore through which the punch passes and a radial offset monitor comprising one or more eddy current sensors, the one or more eddy current sensors being located within the housing or attached thereto. The radial offset monitor is configured to detect misalignment of the ram and/or the punch, or of a can body held on the punch, within the bore.

The radial offset monitor may be integrated into the stripper housing or may be co- located with the stripper housing, wherein the sensor housing defines an internal bore and the or each eddy current sensor is located within the sensor housing. The stripper assembly may comprise a stripper provided with stripping fingers. The stripper assembly may comprise at least two eddy current sensors angularly spaced apart from one another about an axis along which the punch travels. The radial offset monitor may comprise four eddy current sensors equiangularly spaced apart from one another about the axis. The or each eddy current sensor may be adjustable in a direction orthogonal to an axis along which the punch travels. Said bore may be cylindrical.

According to a second aspect there is provided a can bodymaker comprising a ram; a punch mounted on the ram; a toolpack; and a stripper assembly according to the first aspect above.

The can bodymaker may comprise a controller having an input for receiving sensor data from the radial offset monitor; and a processor configured to compute one or more of ram position, ram trajectory, punch position, punch trajectory, can body presence, and can body sidewall thickness.

The can bodymaker may comprise an adjustment mechanism to automatically adjust one or more components of the bodymaker in response to detection by the radial offset monitor of a misalignment of the ram and/or punch and/or can body in order to achieve realignment. The one or more components may be or may include the ram, the punch, a domer, and the adjustment may be a radial adjustment.

According to a third aspect there is provided a can bodymaker comprising a radial offset monitor, said radial offset monitor comprising a body defining an internal bore and one or more eddy current sensors spaced around the bore and configured to detect the misalignment of an object moving axially through the bore, relative to the axis, wherein said object is a ram and/or a punch, or a can body held on the punch, of the can bodymaker.

According to a fourth aspect there is provided a method of detecting axial misalignment of a ram and/or a punch of a can bodymaker, or of a can body held on the punch. The method comprises providing a stripper housing defining an internal bore through which the punch passes; obtaining electrical output signals from one or more eddy current sensors within the housing or attached thereto; and processing the signal(s) to detect any axial misalignment.

The method may comprise processing the sensor data to compute one or more of ram position, ram trajectory, punch position, punch trajectory, can body presence, can body sidewall thickness. The method may comprise using an adjustment mechanism to automatically adjust one or more components of the bodymaker in order to correct the misalignment. The method may be carried out while the bodymaker is producing can bodies. In an embodiment, a can bodymaker comprises a ram; a punch fixed to an end of the ram; a toolpack; a stripper comprising a stripper housing; and a radial offset monitor comprising a body defining an internal bore and one or more eddy current sensors spaced around the bore, the body of the radial offset monitor co-located with, or integrated into, the stripper housing. The radial offset monitor is configured to detect the misalignment of the ram and/or the punch, or of a can body held on the punch, moving axially through the bore, relative to the axis.

In another embodiment, a method of detecting axial misalignment of a ram and/or a punch of a can bodymaker, or of a can body held on the punch, comprises obtaining electrical output signals from one or more eddy current sensors spaced around a bore extending through a body within which the sensor(s) is(are) located, as the ram and/or the punch, or the can body held on the punch moves through the bore, wherein said body is co-located with or integrated into a stripper housing; and processing the signal(s) to detect any axial misalignment.

In a further embodiment, a radial offset monitor comprises a body defining an internal bore and one or more eddy current sensors spaced around the bore. The radial offset monitor may be configured to detect the misalignment of an object moving axially through the bore, relative to the axis. The radial offset monitor may be configured to be attached to a toolpack module of a can bodymaker, and said object may be a ram and/or a punch, or a can body held on the punch.

In a still further embodiment, a can bodymaker comprises the above radial offset monitor, and the object is a ram and/or a punch, or a can body held on the punch, of the can bodymaker. The body of the radial offset monitor is co-located with, or integrated into, a stripper housing.

Brief Description of the Drawings

Figure 1 illustrates schematically a cross-section of a part of a known bodymaker; Figure 2a is a perspective view of a plurality of sensors integrated into a stripper housing;

Figure 2b is a cross-sectional schematic view of a sensor within the stripper housing; Figure 3 is a cross-sectional view of the stripper housing of Figure 2 in position on a bodymaker;

Figure 4 is an enlarged cross-sectional view of the bodymaker of Figure 3;

Figure 5a is a perspective cross-sectional view of the bodymaker of Figure 3;

Figure 5b is an enlarged section of the view of Figure 5a;

Figure 6a is a perspective view of a stripper housing comprising adjustable sensors and attached to a plastic stripper;

Figure 6b is a perspective view of the stripper housing of Figure 6a in position on a bodymaker;

Figure 7a is a perspective view of a stripper housing comprising adjustable sensors and attached to a steel stripper;

Figure 7b is a cross-sectional view of the stripper housing of Figure 7a in position on a bodymaker;

Figure 8 is a cross-sectional view of the stripper housing of Figure 7a;

Figure 9 is a perspective view of a plurality of sensors integrated into a sensor housing;

Figure 10 is a cross-sectional view of the sensor housing of Figure 9 in position on a bodymaker;

Figure 1 1 a is a perspective cross-sectional view of the bodymaker of Figure 10;

Figure 1 1 b is an enlarged section of the view of Figure 1 1 a;

Figure 12 is a graphical representation of sensor output;

Figure 13 is an alternative graphical representation of sensor output;

Figure 14 is a further alternative graphical representation of sensor output; and

Figures 15a and 15b illustrate alternative sensor arrangements.

Detailed Description Figure 1 illustrates schematically a cross-section of a known long-stroke bodymaker 1 . The bodymaker 1 comprises a frame 2 and a ram 4 supported by a pair of hydrostatic bearings (not shown). The ram 4 is constructed using a metal or metal alloy and moves horizontally through a series of ironing dies 5. The dies 5 are clamped to a large block of metal or bolster plate 9. On the forward stroke, the ram 4 moves towards a bottom forming tool or domer 6 and on the return stroke the ram 4 moves away from the domer 6. A punch 7 is mounted on the end of the ram 4 nearest the domer 6. The punch 7 is constructed using a metal or metal alloy, such as steel. At the furthest extent of the ram's 4 forward stroke, a base of a can body (not shown) held on the end of the punch 7 is brought into contact with the domer 6. At the furthest extent of the ram's 4 backward stroke, the punch 7 will be located at a position to the right of a blankholder 3 of the bodymaker 1. In one complete cycle the ram 4 therefore moves from the blankholder 3 to the domer 6 and back again.

Metal cups are fed into the bodymaker 1 one at a time to the left of the blankholder 3 position. Each cup is carried by the punch 7 through the series of dies 5 as described above, as the ram 4 moves forwards. At the end of the forward stroke the resulting can body is brought into contact with the domer 6 and the base of the can body is formed. As the ram 4 begins its return stroke, the can body is removed from the punch 7 by a stripper 8 forming part of a stripper assembly. The stripper 8 may comprise a plastic or a steel ring. The stripper 8 in this example consists of stripping fingers (not shown here) mounted within an annular plastic stripper housing 13, located at one end of the die assembly 5. The radially inward ends of the stripping fingers extend into the bore of the die assembly 5 through which the punch 7 passes. On the forward stroke of the ram 4 the can body carried on the punch 7 deflects the stripping fingers as it moves along the bore of the die assembly 5. As the punch 7 moves on the return stroke, i.e. away from the domer 6, the stripping fingers prevent the can body from returning with the punch 7 and the can body is stripped from the punch 7 and then removed from the bodymaker 1 . In other embodiments not shown here, the can body may be removed from the bodymaker 1 by pressurised air (alternatively, pressurised air may be used to assist removal by a stripper).

Figures 2, 3, 4 and 5 illustrate a first embodiment of a radial offset monitor or ram position sensor 10 comprising a plurality of sensors 1 1 housed within the outer circumference of a stripper housing 13 which is part of a stripper assembly and which takes the form of an annular ring defining an internal bore through which the punch 7 of the bodymaker passes. In Figure 2a, the stripper housing 13 is illustrated from the rear, i.e. as seen from the toolpack of the bodymaker, and without the stripper being present. In this example, there are four sensors 1 1 equally spaced around the stripper housing 13, although fewer, or additional sensors, may be used. For example, two or three sensors may be used, and these may be equally or unequally circumferentially spaced apart from one another about an axis along which the punch of the bodymaker travels. The stripper housing 13 may be a monolithic block machined from a single piece of metal, and comprises an internal bore configured to accommodate a can body of specific diameter, located on the punch 7.

The sensors 1 1 are eddy current sensors, such as the eddyNCDT™ range manufactured by Micro-Epsilon™. Unlike simple inductive sensors, eddy current sensors provide the ability to measure distances to conductive objects with an extremely high degree of precision (in the nanometre range). Advantageously, no contact with the object is required, such that measurement is wear-free.

The eddy current sensors 1 1 each comprise a coil (not shown here) inside an outer casing. The coil is supplied with a high-frequency alternating current in order to produce an electromagnetic field. The coil's electromagnetic field induces eddy currents in the conductive object. These eddy currents create an opposing magnetic field which resists the field produced by the coil. The interaction of magnetic fields produced by the coil and the conductive object depends upon the distance between them, and changes when the distance changes. The sensors 1 1 then produce a voltage output proportional to the change in distance between the conductive object and the sensor 1 1.

The electromagnetic field produced by a sensor 1 1 is capable of penetrating non- metallic objects. This means that eddy current sensors 1 1 can be used to produce measurements even where the (metallic) object has a non-conductive coating, such as plastic, or where the metallic object is contaminated with dirt or oil. The sensors 1 1 are also substantially insensitive to temperature change.

Each sensor 1 1 comprises a face 1 1 a which is located within a circumference of the internal bore of the stripper housing 13 and which faces into the internal bore of the stripper housing 13. As illustrated in Figure 2b, each sensor 1 1 is housed within the stripper housing 13 such that the face 1 1 a of the sensor 1 1 does not protrude from the stripper housing 13. The face 1 1 a may be flush with an exterior of the housing 13, or the face 1 1 a may be slightly recessed, as shown in Figure 2b. An air gap 16 is provided around the sensor face 1 1 a, such that the sensor face 1 1 a does not come into contact with the stripper housing 13. This avoids any interference from the stripper housing 13, which may be constructed from plastic or from metal.

Figures 3, 4 and 5 illustrate the stripper housing 13 and integrated sensors 1 1 of Figure 2 positioned within a bodymaker, such as the bodymaker of Figure 1 . In these illustrated examples, a section of the bodymaker comprising the stripper 8, stripper housing 13, sensors 1 1 and bolster plate 9 is shown. This illustrated section of the bodymaker further comprises an adapter plate 14 and a retaining ring 15. The adaptor plate 14 enables the stripper 8 and stripper housing 13 to be attached to the bodymaker 1 and the retaining ring 15 holds the stripper 8 in place on the front of the stripper housing 13. In this illustrated example, the toolpack, identified by reference numeral 18, is shown without tools (i.e. the die assembly is not shown).

An advantage of integrating the sensors 1 1 into an interior of the stripper housing 13 is that no additional space is required between the adapter plate 14 and the retaining ring 15. Both the sensors 1 1 and stripper housing 13 may be accommodated within the space usually occupied by the stripper housing 13 alone, hence the overall longitudinal dimensions of the bodymaker 1 are unaffected by the inclusion of the sensors 1 1. Figure 4 illustrates the ram 4 on its forward stroke, passing through the internal bore of the stripper housing 13. Also illustrated is the can body unloader pocket 17, which forms part of the discharge turret and which transports the manufactured can body (not shown) away from the bodymaker. The eddy current sensors 1 1 continuously sense or monitor the position or radial offset of the ram 4 (i.e. measure the distance between themselves and the ram surface) as it passes through the stripper housing 13 and send this information to a bodymaker controller (not shown), comprising a PLC (programmable logic circuit). The sensors 1 1 and the controller may be in wired or in wireless communication. The controller calculates the distance of the ram 4 from a longitudinal bodymaker axis, indicated in Figure 4 by line AA. The alignment of the ram may also be measured with respect to a vertical bodymaker axis indicated in Figure 4 by line BB. The information provided by the sensors is displayed on an external device (not shown here) comprising a display screen, as will be further discussed below. It will be appreciated that a bodymaker may need to be re-configured to produce can bodies of different diameters, by replacing the toolpack with a toolpack having dies of a different diameter and by replacing the ram with a ram having a different diameter. For example, to accommodate a larger can body, a ram having a 2 inch diameter might be replaced by a ram having a 3 inch diameter. In this case, the stripper will also need to be replaced in order to accommodate the ram and to remove the can body.

Figures 6, 7 and 8 illustrate a second embodiment of radial offset monitor 20, in which the eddy current sensors 11 integrated into a stripper housing 1 13 are adjustable. Figures 6a and 6b illustrate a plastic stripper 8a attached to the stripper housing 1 13 by a retaining ring 15. Figures 7a, 7b and 8 illustrate the same stripper housing 1 13, to which a steel stripper comprising steel fingers 8b is attached using the retaining ring 15. The plastic stripper 8a has a smaller internal bore than the steel stripper 8b, hence the steel stripper 8b can accommodate a ram, and a can body, of larger diameter. The stripper housing 1 13 has an internal bore configured to accommodate the largest diameter ram to be used with the bodymaker. In order to facilitate the exchange of strippers 8a, 8b, each stripper 8a, 8b is provided with a stripper adapter ring 19a, 19b. When changing from one type of stripper to another, only the stripper 8a, 8b and the stripper adapter ring 19a, 19b need be replaced.

In both Figures 6 and 7, eddy current sensors 1 1 which are configured to be adjustable are integrated into the stripper housing 1 13, as will be discussed in more detail below. In these examples, four eddy current sensors 1 1 are equally spaced around the stripper housing 1 13, with sensor faces 11 a facing into the bore of the stripper housing 1 13. However, fewer or additional sensors may be used. For example, two or three sensors may be used, and these may be equally or unequally spaced around the stripper housing. An air gap (not shown here) is provided around each sensor face 1 1 a, such that the sensor face 1 1 a does not come into contact with the stripper housing 1 13.

Figure 8 is a perspective cross-sectional view of the stripper housing 113 of Figure 7, shown attached to an adaptor plate 14. The steel stripper 8b is held in place on the stripper housing 1 13 by a retaining ring 15 and is provided with a stripper adapter ring 19b. Although a steel stripper 8b is shown in this example, the plastic stripper 8a, or an alternative stripper, could also be used. The stripper housing 1 13 is configured to accommodate four adjustment mechanisms, one adjacent to each eddy current sensor 1 1. For example, the stripper housing 1 13 may comprise cut outs of a suitable size and shape. In this example, each adjustment mechanism comprises a miniature high precision ball screw 21 and a guide mechanism 22. The ball screw 21 converts rotary motion to linear motion. Each screw 21 comprises a moveable collar 24 attached to the guide mechanism 22, which is in turn attached to the adjacent eddy current sensor 1 1. Upon manual or automatic adjustment of the ball screw 21 , the collar 24, guide mechanism 22 and hence the eddy current sensor 1 1 can be adjusted in a direction orthogonal to the inner face of the stripper housing 1 13. In other words, the eddy current sensor 1 1 can be adjusted, or screwed in or out, so that the face of the sensor 11 a either protrudes from, is flush with or is recessed into the inner face of the stripper housing 1 13. It will be appreciated that the position of the sensor face 1 1 a can be adjusted depending upon the diameter of the ram which is to be used. Sensor recalibration may be required after adjustment.

The adjustability of the sensors 1 1 allows the same stripper housing 1 13 to be used with a range of ram sizes. The ball screws 21 can be adjusted without removing the stripper housing 1 13 and so the sensors 1 1 can be easily and quickly configured to be used with a variety of ram sizes.

A third embodiment of a radial offset monitor or ram position sensing gauge 30 is illustrated in Figures 9, 10 and 1 1 . In this embodiment, a number of eddy current sensors 1 1 are housed in a separate sensor housing 12, attached to the stripper housing 213. In other words, the separate sensor housing 12 is co-located with the stripper housing 213, both forming part of the stripper assembly. In this illustrated example, there are four eddy current sensors 11 equally spaced around the annular sensor housing 12, although fewer, or additional sensors, may be used. For example, two or three sensors may be used and these may be equally or unequally angularly spaced around the sensor housing. The housing 12 defines an internal bore through which the punch 7 of the bodymaker passes, and configured to accommodate a can body located on the punch 7. In use, the sensor housing 12 is located between a stripper housing 213 and the stripper 8, as will be discussed further below. The face 1 1 a of each sensor 1 1 is located within a circumference of an internal bore of the sensor housing 12, such that the face 1 1 a of the sensor 1 1 does not protrude from the sensor housing 12. As discussed with reference to Figure 2b above, each sensor face 1 1 a is surrounded with an air gap to avoid any interference from the sensor housing 12.

Figures 10 and 1 1 illustrate the sensor housing 12 of Figure 9 in position within a bodymaker, such as the bodymaker of Figure 1 , shown with the toolpack removed. In this illustrated example, the sensors 1 1 are not integrated into the stripper housing 213, but are instead mounted equiangularly around a separate sensor housing 12, located behind the stripper 8, i.e. between the stripper 8 and stripper housing 213. In this case, the stripper housing 213 is adapted with one or more recesses to provide space for the sensor housing 12.

The embodiments described above may be retrofitted to existing bodymakers. Advantageously, the embodiment of Figures 9, 10 and 1 1 , in which a separate sensor housing 12 is provided, can be moved from one bodymaker to another in order to carry out diagnostic testing on the alignment of the ram 4. In other words, the sensor housing 12 may be removed from its position between the stripper 8 and the stripper housing 213 without affecting the configuration or the operation of the bodymaker. Similarly, the sensor housing 12 may be re-fitted into the bodymaker where further diagnostic testing is required. The number of radial offset monitors required is therefore reduced.

The eddy current sensors 1 1 provide precise, real-time information as to the ram 4 position with respect to the bodymaker 1 axis or axes. Since the punch 7 is located on a distal end of the ram 4, the sensors 1 1 can also provide information regarding the position of the punch 7. Positional information can be provided by the sensors 1 1 both when the ram 4 is stationary and when the bodymaker 1 is running, i.e. when the bodymaker is in normal operation and can bodies are being fed in. Since the radial offset monitor 10, 20, 30 either comprises a stripper housing 13, 1 13 or is mounted between the stripper housing 213 and the stripper 8, it is not necessary to remove any of the dies 5. In addition to dynamically monitoring the radial offset of the ram 4 with respect to an axis of the bodymaker, the sensors 1 1 can also provide information regarding the ram's 4 trajectory i.e. the path the ram 4 will take after it passes through the stripper housing 13, 1 13, 213 and/or the sensor housing 12. This can be provided by taking a series of measurements of the ram's position as it passes by the sensors 1 1 .

The sensor data received can also be used to monitor the punch 7 trajectory and alignment, as well as measuring ram 4 vibration. The use of highly sensitive eddy current sensors 1 1 also means that it is possible to detect whether a can body is present on the punch 7 or not, and to measure a thickness of the can body. Since the sensitivity of the eddy current sensors eliminates interference from the can body, these measurements can be taken while the bodymaker 1 is idle and also when the bodymaker 1 is making can bodies. Detection of the presence and/or thickness of a can body on the punch 7 is useful as it can indicate whether a can body has been properly removed from the punch 7 by the stripper 8, and whether there are any defects in the can body, e.g. the sidewall of the can body is too thin or too thick, potentially indicating cracks or splits. The signal from the sensors 1 1 is sent to the bodymaker controller where it is converted and presented on a human-machine interface (HMI), which may comprise a screen or digital display. The signal can be presented in several different ways. For example, the processed signal output may show the position of the punch 7 in relation to its fully-aligned target position; the position of the ram/punch in relation to the A and/or B axis of the bodymaker; the trajectory of the ram/punch as a 3D plot; a 3D ram/punch patch plot or A-B axis ram/punch patch plot; a plot of the position of the ram or punch in relation to an axis of the bodymaker 1.

Figure 12 is a graphical representation of an exemplary signal output from the sensors 1 1 of any of the embodiments of Figures 2 to 1 1 , showing the position of a ram operating at 100 cycles per minute (equivalent to the drive shaft operating at a speed of 100 rpm). The signal output is recorded over a single cycle of the ram i.e. one complete ram stroke. The graph indicates the real-time radial deviation of the ram from its target or fully aligned position in millimetres. A deviation of 0.00 mm indicates that the ram is fully aligned and in its target position. The graph also illustrates any deviation of the ram from its target trajectory. A deviation of 0 degrees indicates that the trajectory of the ram is correct. Any deviation from the target trajectory may indicate that the ram is "drooping" as it moves towards the domer on its forward stroke.

Figure 13 is an alternative graphical representation of an exemplary signal output, showing the position of a ram operating at 300 rpm. The graph shows the position of the ram with respect to orthogonal X and Y axes, both transverse to the ram axis, as illustrated in Figures 2, 6, 7 and 9, as it passes through the central bore of the stripper housing 13, 1 13 or the sensor housing 213. The target position of the ram is 0,0. Deviation of the ram from this position may indicate that the ram is incorrectly aligned and requires adjustment. In this example, the measurement of the ram position is recorded over multiple ram cycles.

Figure 14 is a further alternative graphical representation of an exemplary signal output, showing the position of a ram operating at 300 rpm. This 3D graph illustrates the position of the ram with respect to the X and Y axes of the bodymaker 1 , as illustrated in Figures 2, 6, 7 and 9, over time. The target position of the ram is 0,0, i.e. this is the position at which the ram is fully aligned as it passes through the internal bore of the stripper housing 13, 1 13 or the sensor housing 12.

It will be appreciated that for each of the exemplary outputs above, the signal data from the eddy current sensors is processed at the bodymaker controller prior to display on the HMI. This allows the data from the sensors to be presented in many different ways, depending on what is being measured. The data from the sensors may be presented in real-time to an operator in different formats simultaneously, allowing an operator to determine whether the ram/punch of the bodymaker is out of alignment or has an incorrect trajectory.

If the diagnostic output from the sensors 1 1 indicates that the ram is misaligned e.g. the ram is hitting the domer in an incorrect position, further action may be taken to realign the ram/punch and/or other components of the bodymaker. For example, the bodymaker may be halted and an operator may manually adjust the domer position so that it aligns with the ram/punch. Alternatively, the ram/punch may be re-aligned. In a further embodiment (not shown here) realignment of the domer and/or of the ram/punch may be carried out automatically. In other words, the output from the sensors 1 1 may form part of a feedback system which automatically adjusts the position of the domer, for example, until the sensor 1 1 outputs indicate that the domer is aligned with the position of the ram and/or punch. In this way, the alignment between the ram/punch and other components of the bodymaker may be continuously adjusted as required during operation of the bodymaker.

An adjustment mechanism for automatically adjusting the domer, for example, might comprise a motorised worm drive, linked to the bodymaker controller, which adjusts the domer in a vertical and in a horizontal plane, so that it is aligned with the ram and/or the punch.

It will be understood by the person of skill in the art that various modifications may be made to the above described embodiments without departing from the scope of the present invention. For example, although in the examples above the bodymaker ram is described as moving in a horizontal direction through a series of annular dies, in other embodiments the bodymaker may be configured such that the ram moves vertically, or otherwise. It will also be appreciated that embodiments of the invention have application outside of the field of bodymakers. For example, the radial offset monitor may be used to monitor the alignment of a piston.

Although the embodiments of Figures 2 to 1 1 described above are provided with four eddy current sensors, equiangularly spaced around the stripper/sensor housing, it will be appreciated that, for any of the above embodiments, fewer or additional sensors may be supplied. For example, Figure 15a illustrates an arrangement in which two eddy current sensors are located in "X-axis" and "Y-axis" positions respectively i.e. spaced 90 degrees apart. Alternatively, as shown in Figure 15b, three eddy current sensors may be provided, two located in "X-axis" and "Y-axis" positions i.e. spaced 90 degrees apart and a third located at a position 135 degrees from the other two.