Automatic versus Semi-Automatic Packaging - Speed, Need and More

The terms automatic and semi-automatic may mean different things in different situations, defined based on the subject. At Liquid Packaging Solutions, we define automatic and semi-automatic by the amount of operator interaction required to complete the packaging task. While most equipment or even packaging lines are divided into these two categories, there are actually many different levels of automation that exist in the world of packaging machinery.

Generally speaking, automatic machinery will require an operator to prepare the machine to run production. This may consist of adjusting conveyor rails for the bottles to be run as well as setting up individual machines for the bottles, product, caps and other components of the project. Automatic machinery often includes a PLC and a touchscreen interface, making the set-up of the machinery quick and easy for the operator. Operators will also have to perform these tasks when a changeover is necessary, which could result from a change in product, bottle sizes or any other number of adjustments to the production run. However, once production begins, the operator simply needs to monitor the line to ensure proper performance and replenish bulk product and components from time to time.

When using semi-automatic machinery, the operator will be more involved, requiring interaction with each cycle to be run. For example, a semi-automatic filling machine will typically require the operator to place bottles under the fill head, activate the fill and remove the filled bottles once the cycle is complete. This procedure will be repeated for each cycle of bottles to be filled. Similarly, a semi-automatic capping machine may require the operator to place a cap on a bottle and then position the cap and bottle combination to allow the capping or sealing to take place, then removing the bottle once the process is complete. Again, the operator would repeat this process for each bottle to be sealed.

When speaking of packaging lines, however, automatic and semi-automatic equipment will often be combined. An operator may set up an automatic filling machine, allowing bottles to run through the machine and be filled without cycle by cycle interaction, but then operate a semi-automatic capper while monitoring the liquid filler. The combination of automatic and semi-automatic machinery allows for a more efficient packaging process without the need for high numbers of manual laborers.

The decision to use automatic or semi-automatic machinery, or a combination of both, will depend on the speed necessary to meet production demands as well as the desire of the packager. Other factors may include the space available for packaging and the necessary equipment to complete the entire packaging process. Some semi-automatic machinery can also be manufactured to grow with a company, allowing for future upgrades including but not limited to eventual automatic production. In a sense, every packaging machine manufactured by LPS will be custom manufactured to meet the needs, including the speeds, of the individual packager.

To learn more about all of the automatic and semi-automatic packaging machine options available for businesses across almost any industry, browse the LPS website or call today to speak with a Packaging Specialist.