A Guide To Finding Your First Filling Machine
For anyone new to packaging, trying to find the right filling machine for your project can get a bit confusing and overwhelming given all of the different types of equipment available. At Liquid Packaging Solutions, we help the customer find the ideal filling solution by analyzing the needs of each individual project, fitting the machine to the packager. While each project will be unique, a few of the factors that will almost always be considered are discussed below.
The product or products that are being packaged will always help to determine the type of filling machine best suited for the job. Generally speaking, different fillers work better with different viscosities. Free-flowing product, for example, can be packaged using a gravity filler, which as the name suggests, takes advantage of gravity to complete accurate volumetric fills. Higher viscosity products might need the extra push provided by a pump filling machine, to move liquids from the bulk supply to the containers. In addition to viscosity, other product characteristics can also help identify the best filling machine for a project. For example, molten product will need a machine with a heated product pathway to protect against products solidifying or clogging of nozzles and tubes. The best first step in finding the right filler is to look at product characteristics to narrow the number of machines that would best work for the project.
Speed, or production demand, will help to determine the level of automation necessary for a packager. Filling machines can be manufactured to run automatically or in a semi-automatic manner. Determining how many bottles or other containers need to be prepared each production day will point the packager in the right direction. While semi-automatic machinery will require interaction from an operator with each fill cycle run, they can still greatly increase speed over hand filling liquid products. In addition, semi-automatic fillers provide consistency and accuracy that would be difficult to replicate with hand filling. Automatic fillers require an operator to set up the machine through a touchscreen operator interface, but once set up, power conveyors, indexing systems and a PLC allow the machine to continuously run cycles of bottles up to sixteen at a time, providing a boost in speed without sacrificing the consistency or accuracy. Identifying the production demand for a product will let the packager choose the right level of automation for the necessary liquid filler.
Similar to speed, a packager should consider not just their current production needs, but expected needs in the future. Both automatic and semi-automatic liquid fillers will typically allow for upgrades by simply adding more fill heads when needed. However, each type of machine has a limit on the total number of heads. For packagers that will start with low to medium demand, but expect significant growth, semi-automatic filling machines can be manufactured with growth in mind. This semi-automatic equipment can be manufactured on full filler frames, allowing for the addition of indexing systems and a PLC in the future, making the filler capable of transitioning to a fully automatic machine in the future. In other words, for those expecting higher future demand, the filling machine can grow with the company.
Whether automatic or semi-automatic, preparing products takes space. However, fully automatic machines with a conveyor system in place will typically require much more space than semi-automatic machines. Automatic filling machines are also, more often than not, combined with other equipment to build a complete packaging line. Not every packager will have the space for an inline packaging system. Semi-automatic machinery can be as simple as a tabletop model, with a small footprint and little space required. Analyzing the space available for any given project can also help narrow the choices when identifying the ideal filling solution.
Also as a general rule, the higher the level of automation, the more the filling machine will cost to add to a project. Semi-automatic machinery will often be a good choice for new packagers, allowing more money to be allocated for other aspects of the business. However, when demand reaches a certain point, automatic machinery can pay for itself by allowing the packager to produce and sell more product in less time. Analyzing the budget along with all of the other factors discussed above will help point a packager to the right solution for their own unique needs.
Every project will include unique factors and considerations when looking to add a filling machine or other packaging equipment. Liquid Packaging Solutions works with packagers to first identify these unique factors and considerations, then find the ideal solution for each individual project. If you have questions about filling machinery or any of the other packaging equipment offered by LPS, call 1-219-393-3600 to speak with a Packaging Professional today.