Bodymaker AMS






During the first third of the twentieth century, the metal sector is developed and consolidated in a strong way and the companies that appear in this period, will be the ones that mark in general the pattern throughout this century. From now on we will understand, as a metal industry, what it encompasses, both the factories that produce packaging, and other complementary products (covers, lithography and varnishing, preparation of tinplate …) as well as machinery for this activity, materials and raw materials.

This period, which we could include from the North American invasion of Cuba and the Philippines (1898), until the beginning of the Second World War (1939), historically can not be considered as a single stage, since very significant events took place and with its own entity , like the First World War, but in the scope of the plot that we are considering, if it represents a coherent cycle.


The political situation is marked by the emergence of the United States on a world scale as a great power and the beginning of the decline of the great European colonial states (England, France, Germany …), which also face each other, leading to the First Great War. From it will emerge a United States already clearly converted into the 1st world power and a destroyed and fractionated Europe, which will be the breeding ground of the next European war.


In this context, new advances will appear, such as the concept of closure in two operations, applied by the Ams brothers in 1907.




Thus in America “American Can” emerged. It was founded by the union of Norton Brothers – already mentioned before – with 60 other small companies in the year 1901, being its first president Edwin Norton who had acted as leader of the merger and its headquarters was located in Chicago (Illinois). Later – in the year 1904 – Norton leaves American Can, creating “Continental Can”. Also in the year 1904, three New York companies come together to form “Sanitary Can”, which manufactures a new container in which the lid closes the filler. In this way, the operation – which was previously carried out by the latter – is eliminated, covering with a welded plate, the hole of the old lid placed by the metal. This procedure is very successful and gradually replaces the old one, which disappears from the market in less than 20 years. The new type of container receives the name of “sanitary” – or “open top can”, that we could translate like “container abierto by the top” -.


In addition to the previous ones, also at the beginning of this century, other important companies such as JL Clark Co. (1904) in Rockford, CanC Nacional (1904) in Baltirmore, which would become a large multinational, started its activity. (1903) in Cincinati that would be an international leader in the manufacture of aerosols, MacDonald Mfg. Co. (1911) in Toronto that builds an excellent team and many others. They give a test of the vast American market that without a doubt has always been the locomotive of the metal sector.


In the year 1921, a company emerged in the United Kingdom that is going to be fundamental for the history of metallic packaging in Europe. Four old family businesses of the sector – two dedicated to the printing of tinplate and manufacture of biscuit tins and other two to container for paintings – join forming the company Allied Tin Box Makers Limited, happening to be the most important at that moment in said country . This position will always keep it. In 1930 it goes public and changes its name to The Metal Box Company Lted. Between 1924 to 1939 eleven other societies are added to the group. Many old factories of the same ones were closed and new plant of better quality arose.


In 1929 the first company in the American market – American Can – is implanted in the UK, assembling 3 plants and competes firmly with Metal Box. The latter reacted and signed a technological agreement with its American competitor Continental Can in 1930. Thanks to the same improvement, M. Box’s competitiveness improved, making the American Can project fail, which opts to sell its facilities to M. Box and retire. As of this year it is the only company that offers sanitary containers in the United Kingdom.


From that moment the expansion of M, Box in very large. Soon it has subsidiaries and associates in Africa, Asia, Australia and Europe. Produces sanitary containers, for oils, “general lines” type, and later aerosols, capsules, crown caps and beverages. It also participates in the tinplate market – in 1935 it buys Richard Thomas (RTB) -, paper, cardboard, “composite”, laminates, eventually plastics, etc. Between 1948 and 1961 he built eight new plants with the most modern technology in the world, thanks in part to the renewal of concerts with Continental Can, which at the moment is the world leader. In 1968, it is a date that perhaps represents the moment of maximum splendor of this society that only in the UK and the metal container market has 24 factories. Its commercial policy is based on a comprehensive service to the client of high quality, it becomes a very popular company and known by the common people.


All the important companies besides manufacturing containers, developed their own production team, due on the one hand to the little presence of large machinery manufacturers in the sector, but above all, to the experience that the metal companies had, which were the ones that could continually provide improvements to the facilities, evidenced during manufacturing. That is why the big packaging manufacturers such as American, Continental, Metal Box, Carnaud … were also manufacturers of machinery. Although there were also only team like Bliss, Calaghan, Moon., Kircheis … of considerable importance.

Manufacturing containers


In the “twenties”, the first companies of some consideration were created in Spain. In truth, already canning workshops with packaging manufacturing worked much earlier. Thus in 1850, Gutiérrez de la Concha, mounts in Logroño (La Rioja) the first of them, dedicated to vegetable conservation. This was followed by others, especially in this area and in Galicia – pesca-. But now they are companies, such as Alonarti Mechanical Workshops, dedicated to packaging and preserving machinery (1921) in Vigo, Hispano-Lupcinski Metal Arts -Futura G. Llamas – (1923) in Barcelona, ​​Logroñesa Metalgraph (1924) – which would be bought in 1962 by International Packaging Company … and many others. With this took shape in Spain a business called to be key given the agricultural and fishing importance of the country.


Cervecería Cuauhtémoc (founded in 1890) created a department in Monterrey – Mexico – in 1921, which later became a company dedicated to the manufacture of crown caps. This is how Famosa was created (Fabricas de Monterrey SA). Decades later, it would manufacture metallic containers for beer, following the evolution of the market. Also in Mexico an entrepreneur named Cayo Zapata Molinero erects a small company dedicated to cleaning products for footwear, manufacturing its own packaging. Soon, like many other cases in the world, he saw that the business was in the boats, dedicating himself fully to this activity. A large family business was developed over the years, today being a multinational implemented in many countries. In this nation, Vicente López Resines founded a canning firm in 1923 – Conservas La Costeña – specialized in chili peppers; fourteen years later he set up his own packaging factory. For those decades Continental Can is firmly represented in this territory by Continental of Mexico, providing a solid technology that will improve the technical level of the industry. Closing the Mexican reference of this history, it would be possible to cite also companies of solera solera as Industrial Litográfica (1945) or – already in our days – as vigorous as Universal Containers of Mexico.



Returning to take the thread of the history of the evolution of the container in the early twentieth century, clearly differentiated the manufacture of lids and funds on the one hand, and that of the bodies with the assembly of the fund on the other. The covers and bottoms were constructed in presses more and more sophisticated, initially with manual feeding of the bands or strips of tinplate. Subsequently, an automatic full-blade or strip feeder was incorporated. Towards 1922, new equipment appeared, that by rotation prepared the flange of the covers for the operation of closed, as well as to be able to stack them on others, avoiding the problem of the mutual fit. These machines were called rizadoras or curlingadoras. They were mounted after the press and usually received the movement from it. Also the liquid compound gumming machines improved in quality and speed from the primitive design of J. Brenzinger. These contributions considerably increased the production rate of the caps.


In the manufacture of the cylindrical body and later union with the lid (closing operation), new types of machines were also appearing and also, instead of operating in isolation from each other, they were joined, forming an assembly line, using for this purpose, a series of conveyors and chain or belt elevators and gravity falls between consecutive machines, which simplified carry-out and container flows in intermediate operations.


At this time, an assembly line was basically configured by a series of teams that have remained practically to this day in their sequence and disposition, although not in their performance. These were:


Shears : There were two types:


– Cutting in guillotine. Also known as “scissors”, for using the same cutting principle as them.


– Circular: Constituted by: a) a table on which the material was deposited and b) a pair of parallel axles carrying a series of circular blades that cut the leaf fed by hand. Each line was equipped with two machines, one cut to the measure of the development of the body of the container and another to that of its height.

Guillotine shears


Bodymakers : Also known as trainers or engravers. They were machines of alternative linear movement, in which starting from the bodies cut in the previous operation, a series of sequential operations were carried out on them, until the cylinder was completed. For this, the bodies were advanced along the machine, dragged by a pair of bars provided with nails. These bars moved back and forth. The different operations were:

–          Separation of the bodies one by one, taking each one of them from a pile.

–          Seaming and incision (by means of four pairs of punch-matrix) of the edges that were later to be joined.

–          Folding them to configure both hooks.

–          Pickling to facilitate the subsequent welding.

–          Conformation of the body on a drum, called bigornia, to give it the cylindrical shape.

–          Union of the two hooks and riveting them.


These teams were a magnificent example of the use of mechanisms.

Bodymaker Blis


Welders : The primitive designs were evolving until becoming a machine composed of:

– Tank filled with cast-tin alloy-lead.

– Roller of steel mounted horizontally, with a profile approximately in the form of sinusoide, which turned partially submerged inside the bath of molten alloy.


The cylindrical body of the container passed linearly, transported by a chain with fingers in the form of tweezers touching the generatrix (corresponding to the joint area) on the roller, which received a contribution of welding (tin-lead alloy).


Spanners : Nominated also edgers . They slightly folded the ends of the body, forming the necessary tabs to then receive the covers and facilitate the closing operation. There were two types:


–          By routine (or reel). It is the oldest type. I made the tabs by folding the ends by the action of an external routine that acted on a track


–          Of buffer. They worked by forming the tabs by percussion of a pair of symmetrical tampons at the ends of the bodies.

Tab for tampon


Closers: Attach the cover to the body, using a pair of rollers, which each have a different throat, the first roller performs the operation of folding the end of the lid on the body flange and the second crushes that folded, act successively while the container rotates. This principle has remained unchanged until our departure, although logically these teams have received many improvements.

Automatic seamer


The line was completed with a set of elevators, falls by gravity and conveyors of union between machines, as already indicated above and by a packaging system, by which the containers were introduced in cardboard boxes or paper bags for its subsequent transport to the filling plant. Along the entire line, the body was maintained with its axis horizontal, except in some models of seamers where it was necessary to position it vertically.


Among the numerous manufacturers of complete lines according to these characteristics, two Italian companies deserve to be highlighted, which became in the second half of the 20th century regular suppliers of small and medium-sized European companies, which almost always did not have their own machinery. :


Cevolani, created in 1900 in Bologna, specialized in this sector, designing installations of good quality. With certain ups and downs, it maintained its activity throughout the century. In 1999 he joined the Pelliconi Group – producer of crown caps and plastic closures – and went back up, presenting a fairly complete range of equipment.


In Naples there were specialized workshops dedicated to this work. After the Second World War, the IRI (Institute for Industrial Reconstruction in Italy) structured them creating an IMF, dedicating itself fully to the design and construction of machinery. Later, in 1965, it merged with a press manufacturer – Mecfond – creating the state company FMI Mecfond, which later – in 1980 – would go to the steel group Findiser (Italsider). She was the competitor of Cevolani, with a very complete catalog of equipment.


There were other variants of lines, which incorporated a different way of welding the ends of the bodies, to form the side seam. Instead of making the connection by means of two hooks, one end was overlapped or overlapped in a flat manner and a tin-lead alloy ribbon was inserted between them, then heat was applied for its fusion. This type of lines worked at a lower speed than the others and developed mainly in Europe. They received the generic name of overlap lines.


The decoration of the leaves that were initially dried in a static stove, in 1914, makes a great advance with the incorporation of continuous ovens. Also the interior varnishing, gives a qualitative leap towards the year 1920 with the appearance of varnishes based on zinc oxide.


Production speeds were increasing. Always considering as reference the manufacture of the container of half a kilogram as it is more usual, initially – when the production was manual – it was around 20 units / minute. At the end of the period of time to which we are referring, 250 containers / minute were reached.


Europe continued to create its own style of boats. A very interesting example of this was the development in France during this period of “decollage” type packaging. The difference between them was not so much in the form, which could be round, rectangular or oval (although the non-round predominated) but in the way of opening. One end, (the lid) instead of being attached to the body by a closure as described above, was welded to it. For this, a pair of flat and parallel surfaces was formed at the edge of the lid and at the end of the body. The solder alloy was applied to the outer surface of the body and, once joined, the assembly was remelted. The manufacturing line was very different from the classic ones.

Cans to decollage


The “decollage” containers were the first ones that did not need a classic opener for their opening, although they had to be provided with a small wrench made of wire to separate the lid. It was an initial beginning of easy opening and enjoyed great acceptance in France, Spain, Portugal and North Africa. They had a long life, as they continued to be used in the preserved fish market until well into the ’70s of the 20th century. Its disappearance was linked to the prohibition of the use of the tin-lead alloy as welding for sanitary reasons.


Given the many advantages offered by metal containers, applications other than those of filling solid or pasty foods quickly emerged. Thus a very broad market developed between liquid foods (oils and the like), paints, varnishes, greases and other industrial products.


Some characteristics of these containers were different from sanitary ones, as for example the need to incorporate a pouring neck or a handle to help transport the larger ones. Therefore, specialized lines appeared, which were called “general lines” to differentiate them from those of sanitary containers. In southern Europe, especially in Spain, rectangular containers have, since then, a lot of application to contain olive oil, with a range of measures and capacities very particular to this market.


The Norwegian Eric Rotheim of Oslo, developed in 1922 a novel application of the metal container: aerosols. It even took some time to popularize this idea, but already during the Second World War it was a medium widely applied by the American army.


Multipunch press for small embossments


Another variant of containers that emerged in this period were those obtained by drawing. The bottom and the body of the same ones were obtained in a single piece in a special press of greater route and double effect. Although at first the cadences were slow, in the future they would have a great boom.


By 1930, the industry was sufficiently developed to try a new step, which over time would be very important: the packaging of beverages. This meant not only mastering the packaging perfectly, but also having a range of suitable interior varnishes that were able to protect the metal from the action of the product. The first can of drinks tried to imitate the shape of the bottle, starting from a cylindrical body, a concave bottom and a conical lid. It finished in the shape of a neck, which was closed with a crown cap identical to that used for bottles.

Primitive beverage can


Also in the year 1930, the French company JJ Carnaud, installed a factory in Morocco. It is the first on the African continent It was set up in Casablanca and although it was preferentially dedicated to fish, it also made cans for other food products, such as vegetables. Later it will also settle in other countries of the French orbit, such as Tunisia, Algeria, Lebanon, Senegal, Ivory Coast …


The powerful Argentine cereal group Burge y Born, at the beginning of this century, following a policy of diversification by the hand of Alfredo Hirsh, creates a metal-Centenera-as a support for their business in packaged fruit. This company will have a long life, associating with multinationals of the American sector. Also in Argentina and in 1930 Jacobo Liubitch creates Formametal, originally dedicated to crown cap but then specialize in aerosols, forming part of the international group Ball today. Another brilliant businessman – the Polish Efraín Szuchet – founded in 1949 another small company also focused on crown cap and then expanded with modern installations for lithographed containers. They are the roots of this industry in Argentina, which would later be deployed in a leafy tree in the second half of the century.


In other South American countries, the history of packaging also begins at this stage. This is the case of Venezuela, where in the 1930s Domínguez & Cia started its activity. Started in canned food cans, later extending to industrial containers and then to beverages, using tin and aluminum as raw material. Today he completes his activity with plastics. Another important company – although founded later (1952) – is Envases Venezolanos, which was assisted by none other than American Can. It works with a range of products similar to the previous one, entering in this case in the glass industry.







German troops crossed the border of Poland on September 1, 1939 The attack was developed simultaneously by the North and South borders of the country, nothing served the opposition of some thirty available divisions, on the 9th of that month the German armies They were at the gates of Warsaw. The terrible Second Great War had begun. During the same, from 1939 to 1945 the European continental hegemony was decided between the USSR and the III Reich, and the maritime one in the Pacific Ocean between Japan and the United States. The resurgence of this chaos once again cost the world at least ten years. A new world order was defined with power divided between two blocs, led by North America and the Soviet Union. The war was a powerful stimulus to seek solutions to difficulties and problems that humanity had. This period of time that goes from the year 1939 until approximately the end of the “fifty” or principles of the “sixty” (depending on the geographical area) will be prodigo in advances in the metallurgical sector.

In America, a new application of tinplate packaging is consolidated. It is a can for drinks. He had already had some conatus of use in the previous decade. However, it is now in 1940, when it emerges with force propitiated by new consumption habits. In this year the first packaging of carbonated drinks is made. It is part of a size already in the market for the conserve, in a diameter of 65 mm. (211) and with a content of 1/3 of liter, but the requirements of the container are much greater. In truth it is a variant of the container used for aerosols but with the particularity that there should not be in it, the smallest metal exposed to the contact with the drink as it would cause risk of perforation and alteration of the product. In addition, it is always subjected to internal pressure, which requires special designs of the caps. Soon the beer and especially the “cola” drinks will use it in a massive way.

Military operations in the Pacific Ocean developed in unhealthy environments on islands with great vegetation and tropical climate. Infections by mosquitoes and insects were frequent among the military and the American Navy sponsored the use of containers that facilitated the fight against them. They were able to spray their contents using a gas as a propellant and a metering valve. The use of aerosols or sprays had begun. The invention was not new because it was the Norwegian Eric Rotheim in 1922 the discoverer – as indicated above – but it is now to develop its manufacture in metal when its use becomes popular Household products, perfumery, cosmetics … would find in this solution the ideal container. The new can had both ends in the form of a spherical cap, suitable to withstand strong internal pressures. The side seam also changed its arrangement, alternating overlapping areas with other latches of about 12 mm. of length each. This improved its resistance to internal pressure.


A major market for tinplate since previous times was the manufacture of the crown cap (the typical “plates” for glass bottles). During this period, other types of lids made with this material were introduced into the market, covering a very wide range of diameters. They were equipped with 4 or more nails that allowed their fixation on the threads of the mouth of special glass jars. It was the “twist off” tapas that soon became popular in jams, sauces, etc.


The containers for industrial or domestic non-food uses (containers of “general lines”) also improved with the appearance of new raw materials such as thermoplastic cements for the sealing of the lateral seam (which allowed the complete decoration of the body) or new designs like the triple close.


These developments were possible thanks also to developments in other fields related to this industry such as:


– Sanitary varnishes for interior applications of covers and bodies suitable to withstand the harsh mechanical conditions in manufacturing and chemical once the containers are filled. They were fundamental for beverage cans.


– Accessories and complements: Valves for aerosol containers, handles and supports for industrial containers, etc.


– Compounds and sanitary boards for funds and new “twist off” covers


– Improvements in the base steel of tinplate, getting qualities and hardness suitable for new uses. “Double reduced” for the covers of the cans of beverages, low temper for the “triple closing”, etc.


Manufacturing equipment brought obvious improvements such as:


– New generation of machines for the printing of tinplate in rotary envelopes, which replaced the flat primitives.


– Automatic cutting shears for the assembly lines, which joined in a single machine the feeding of the blade and the two cuts.


– Guillotine cutting shears in “zigzag” of the strips for the manufacture of covers to save tinplate surface.


– Increase of speed in presses of covers and improvement of securities.


– In France – Carnaud – and at the beginning of this period, appears for the first time a new machine, which placed after the welder and fed with bodies of great length, the pieces in two or three parts, allowing from it to duplicate or tripling the production speed. It has application for packaging of low height and supposes a very important increase of the speed of the line of manufacture. This team quickly found replicas in other manufacturers and extended its use under the name of “body splitter”.


Separator or splitter of Carnaud bodies


It was a positive period for the sector marked by the opening to new markets that resulted in a very large increase in business volume. Perhaps this industry lived during those years its golden age with a spectacular expansion. The strongest companies grew and spread out of their original piases and new ones were created. Its enumeration would be neat but we will review for example: “Toyo Sikan” in Japan, the Continental and Americen Can groups in North America, Centenera, Domínguez. Zapata in Latin America, Metal Box, Carnaud, Schmalbach-Lubeca, T & D, PLM in Europe and many others.


In 1948, Ferembal inaugurates new facilities of excellent quality in Nancy (France). This company, which started its activities in 1931, accelerated its growth at that time, reaching many factories in Brittany, Lorena, Picardy, Southwest …. Its history is woven of successive stages of mergers, alliances, partial sales … until ending, at the end of the century, in its sale to the Impress Group (Netherlands). He has always had a leading position in the canning industry in France.


Cebal, Pechiney, Frampac … and others, which shape the panorama of the metal sector in France, also evolve in this period. It would be forced to talk about them more, but we do not do so in attention to the brevity of this story.


The year 1952 a former manufacturer of tin utensils – Robert Bindschedler – who started his activity in 1911 in Massilly – south of the Bourgogne -, transforms his industry, dedicating himself to the manipulation, printing and sale of tinplate. Later it develops a new industrial group, under the name of “Massilly”. It centers its activity, -in addition to canning containers- in aerosols and capsules. It seeks technology for the manufacture of the latter, allying with the American firm Anchor – Hocking in 1962. It is a company with an international vocation and soon creates production centers in several European countries. Spain in the seventies, England, Italy and Switzerland in the “eighties”. So in 9 European countries and two African countries – South Africa and Ghana. It is established in North America – Ontario, Canada – in 1996 and from there it offers its activity in the competitive American market.


In Chile and in the “50”, Envases Orlandini, in this decade it reaches an important development in the manufacture of “general lines” type packaging. Founded thirty years earlier by a farmer entrepreneur, who needed cans to pack his olive oils, he now completes his range of products. Other industries start in this country its journey through this time. Chilean Cheem, Inesa, Cerrillos Containers … In the fruit preserve, Pentzke that dates back to its foundation at the beginning of the century, its own packaging is manufactured.


In 1957 they began to manufacture containers using aluminum as raw material. Until then, the tin had reigned in the sector alone. From that moment, you will have to share the market with this metal. In North America – where its use began – and Northern Europe soon I take a good part of the business, remaining the rest badly faithful to the tin. Since then, the consumption of both raw materials have followed the swings that marked their prices.



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