Automatic Filling Machines and the Operator Interface

Automatic liquid filling machines from Liquid Packaging Solutions use a touchscreen operator interface to allow the operator to set up and control the filler. The touchscreen interface allows centralized control of almost every aspect of the filler to allow for quick and easy set up and changeover of bottles and products. The interface will include a number of different screens to control different functions. While the contents of the screens, and the screens themselves, may differ depending on the type of filler and the individual project, below are the most common screens along with the contents of those screens.

Main Screen

The Main Screen of the interface allows the operator to access all of the other screens available for the project. It might also be thought of as a "home" screen and functions as a starting point to accessing the different functions of the machine, such as the Manual Toggle Screen for maintenance or the Alarm Screen for troubleshooting. Brief descriptions of the interior screens are given below.

In addition to acting as the home screen, the Main Screen also displays certain filling machine statistics. Total production count may be displayed on the Main Screen, as well as the current status of the machine. Below these statistics, the Main Screen will display several on/off buttons for the main controls for the machine allowing the operator to start the fill cycle, the conveyor and other components of the equipment or line. These main function buttons will appear on the interior screens as well.

Manual Toggle Screen

The Manual Toggle Screen will typically include a number of different machine components. This screen will list those components, with most having touchscreen buttons allowing the component to be set to Auto or some version of Manual control. For example, an automatic filling machine with a power conveyor and a drip tray will include controls for these two items under the Manual Toggle Screen. The conveyor can be turned to a manual setting for troubleshooting or maintenance to allow the operator to control the same. The drip tray can also be manually controlled to allow access to the heads or the tray.

The actual controls under the Manual Toggle Screen will depend on the filling machine and the components included for the individual project, but will usually include controls for the conveyor, indexing, head dives, drip trays and any other feature of the machine. When running automatic mode, operators should be sure to return any features controlled manually to the Auto setting to ensure efficient production.

Filler Set Up Screen

The Filler Set Up Screen allows the operator to set certain aspects of the filling machine while it is running production. In other words, the components are set up as the operator would like them to function while the machine is running. Again, the controls found under this screen will depend on the actual filler used and the components included. Some typical controls, however, will include sensor settings, indexing controls and the ability to turn certain features like the drip tray and bottle locators on and off during automatic production.

Adjust Pre-Sets Screen

For every filling machine, the fill cycle is the amount of time it takes for a set of bottles to make their way through the filling machine. This includes indexing time, fill time and other delay and duration times (such as head dive and head retraction time). The Adjust Pre-Sets screens allow the operator to set and adjust all of the fractions of time that make up one fill cycle.

The screen will also include a setting for the number of containers that will be run each cycle. In most cases, the container setting will be set to the number of fill heads on the machine, though some exceptions exist for every-other-bottle fills and certain types of indexing. While having to deal with all of these settings may seem confusing or time-consuming, the Recipe Screen described below makes the set up even easier for the operator.

Adjust Fill Times Screen

The Adjust Fill Times screen is fairly self-explanatory. This screen allows the operator to set the fill times for each individual head or for all of the heads. The actual screen and controls will vary depending on the type of liquid filler being used for any given project. A gravity filler, for example, may simply be set for a specific number of seconds, whereas a pump filling machine may have both a pump duration and pump speed setting for each head. Other controls may be present under this screen if a depending on the specific type of filling machine and the fill principle.

Auto Indexing Set Up Screen

Indexing of bottles is crucial to ensuring efficient and consistent performance of an automatic filling machine. If bottles are not delivered in the right amount and at the right time, the filler simply cannot perform to the best of its ability. Finding the right indexing times can be a tedious and frustrating process if done manually. The Auto Indexing Set Up Screen allows the operator to set bottles on the conveyor and simply press a button to find the correct times!

This screen typically consists of a timer and buttons to start the process, clear the times or save the times. Once times are recorded and saved, the indexing of the machine is set up and ready for production.

Recipe and Alarm Screens

The Recipe Screen allows an operator to save the settings from all of the other screens described above for any bottle and product combination. This means once the fill times, indexing times and other settings are set for a bottle and product, they can be saved and recalled in the future with the touch of a button, reducing changeover and set up time significantly! But even better, LPS always requests the bottle and products that will be used by the packager to allow these recipes to be pre-loaded at the time that the machine is delivered to the production floor, meaning only new bottle and product combinations will need to be set up initially. The set up can also be done during installation and training to allow operators to learn the process should new combinations be expected in the future.

The Alarm Screen is another useful tool to cut down on downtime and increase efficiency. This screen simply helps the operator to identify any issue with the machine should the machine function improperly during the production run. The Alarm Screen will display a message that must be cleared to re-start production once the issue is resolved.

Clean-In-Place (CIP) Screen

Finally, the CIP Screen allows for quick and easy cleaning of the filling machines product pathway. Not all automatic fillers will include, or need, the CIP Screen. But for those packagers who have many product changeovers or need to regularly clean machinery for any reason, the CIP system and Screen make the process efficient. CIP systems may vary from machine to machine, but the CIP Screen will typically be a simple control screen for the process. Most often the screen will include a duration time and a cycle time, allowing operators to run cleaning product through the product pathway and tanks for a quick and thorough cleaning before moving on to the next product or project.

Each and every operator interface will be hand tailored to the packager and the project at hand. While the screens and settings may be different from machine to machine, the interface will be in place to allow for easy, centralized control of the liquid filler. For more information on automatic filling machines or the control interfaces, contact Liquid Packaging Solutions directly through the quick connect boxes on the website, or by calling the office at 1-219-393-3600.