Basics of An Automatic Filler Control Panel

Though not all filling machines are created equal, controlling those machines will usually take the same basic form. Automatic filling machines will almost always use a PLC controller with a touchscreen interface to make set up and operation as simple as possible for those running the machine. Though controls may vary from machine to machine, the following screens are the most typical screens found on automatic liquid fillers.


The Main Screen of an automatic filling machine allows access to all of the deeper screen discussed below. In addition, the screen will include information on the production and the machine, including total production count, the infeed count and on/off controls for filler components such as the fill cycle, fill heads, product supply, power conveyors and others depending on the type of machine being used for any particular project. These controls at the bottom of the Main Screen will stay constant on the other screens as well.


The Manual Toggle Screen, as the name suggests, allows the operator of the bottle filler to manually control certain aspects of the machine. These controls may allow the operator to turn the power conveyor on and off, open and close indexing gates and dive fill heads. Again the components may change from project to project, but the controls will allow positioning of different components for maintenance, troubleshooting, changeover or cleaning.


In general terms, the Filler Set Up screens allow the operator to turn components on and off for the automatic operation of the machine. For instance, turning a drip tray off in the Filler Set Up screen will stop the drip tray from moving into position when the machine is operating automatically. It differs from the manual toggle controls in that the filler set up controls are the settings for automatic production versus control over components for cleaning, maintenance and the like.


The Adjust Pre-Sets Screen will include all of the delay and duration times necessary to complete an efficient fill cycle. These settings may include indexing times for opening and closing gates, head dive delays and many other time based settings to allow for consistent, efficient and reliable fills for each cycle. Pre-Sets will also include settings for sensors and floats to ensure proper function of these components.


The Adjust Fill Heads Screen will assist in setting up the actual fill times for either each individual head on the filling machine or for all of the filling heads at once. The settings can take different forms, from pump durations and piston strokes to a simple time setting for opening a valve, depending on the fill principle to be used for the given project. But generally speaking, this screen allows the set up of fill times, versus time for fill cycles (fill time plus delays and durations, such as indexing).


Auto Set Up Screens allow for the quick and easy setting of indexing time to save the operator from trial and error in finding exact and efficient settings. In most cases, operators will simply line up bottles just outside the fill area before pressing the ASU button. Bottles will index into the fill area and the time can be saved as a setting to the PLC, it is that simple!


The Recipe Screen is also found on the Operator Interface to make things much easier on the operators of the equipment. As discussed above, there are many different settings that make up a fill cycle. To achieve maximum efficiency, each of those settings needs to be at the ideal time or function. The recipe screen allows the operator to save all of the settings for a particular bottle and product combination, so that set up only needs to be performed once. Even better, one of the reasons LPS requests packagers bottles and products for testing is to allow our own technicians to save recipes before delivery, leaving the operators to simply input the necessary number to begin production!


The Alarm Screen simply assists the operator with troubleshooting when an issue arises or production is halted for any reason. From bottle jams to improper start up after an emergency stop, the Alarm Screen will direct the operator to the issue that needs to be resolved. The screen will also require that all alarms be cleared before the machine will begin to fill bottles again, stopping any possible issues from becoming worse on restart.


Though not all filling machines will include a Clean-In-Place (CIP) Screen, many packagers opt for such a component to save time and effort on routine cleaning and maintenance. CIP screens allow operators to quickly and easily clear product pathways of product residue and prepare the machinery for the next run. Tanks, tubes and nozzles may be rinsed with water or cleaning solutions and the time and cycles can easily be set on the machine screen.

As noted, each machine will be different, and the control panel may include controls on top of the touch screen controls described above, including on/off switches for conveyors and turntables, speed controls for the same and a switch button power height adjustment. While the screens above are fairly common, each interface will be modified and designed to meet the needs of the packager and his or her process. For more information on liquid fillers or their controls, contact Liquid Packaging Solutions directly.