Basics of Filling Machine Control Panels
One of the standard features for almost every automatic filling machine is an easy to use, touchscreen operator interface. This interface assists operators in setting up and running the filler, as well as routine maintenance and troubleshooting. While the screens included with every machine will depend on the type of filler as well as the products run, the accessories and options and the needs of the unique packager, certain aspects of the interface will almost always stay the same. Below is a list of common screens found on the operator interface and with a brief description of the tasks they help to complete. If the different controls or screens seem overwhelming, make sure you read to the RECIPE SCREEN to understand why we call set-up simple!
The Main Screen of any filling machine serves as a map for the controls of the equipment. In most cases, all of the other screens discussed below will be accessed from the Main Screen. In addition, the Main Screen will include some statistics for the filling machine, including total production count. Operators can track production by the day, week, month, year or any other period of time by simply resetting the count on the Main Screen.
The Main Screen also includes function buttons that will remain in place even on the interior screens. These buttons allow the fill cycle to be turned on and off, along with other components of the equipment such as conveyors, turntables, pumps, sensors and more, depending on the needs of the project.
Manual Toggle, as the name suggests, allows the operator to manually control certain aspects of the liquid filler. While these should not, and actually cannot, be used while the filler is in cycle, manual control is useful during set-up, routine maintenance and troubleshooting. Using this menu, operators may be able to open and close indexing gates, lower or raise diving heads and retract neck grabbers or drip trays along with an assortment of other controls to help get access to the necessary parts of the machine. As with most menus discussed here, the actual controls will depend on the features of the machine for the specific project at hand.
FILLER SET UP
The Filler Set Up Screen will be used by the operator prior to running production to ensure the most efficient fill possible. Like the Manual Toggle Screen, the Filler Set Up may include controls for options or accessories such as drip trays and neck grabbers. However, rather than allow for manual control, these items can be set to run automatically during production or they may be turned off. For example, if a packager runs a multitude of bottles, neck grabbers may be used to stabilize a large or uniquely shaped bottle, but may be unnecessary for many other bottles. On changeover, the operator can use the filler set up screen to turn the neck grabbers on or off to match the bottle that will be run. Other selections may include controls for indexing type, pump controls, sensor settings and more. The controls in the menu for any given project, once again, may differ depending on the options included, the filler type and the needs of the individual packager.
A fill cycle is made up of increments of time for different activities to take place. Of course, a part of the fill cycle is the actual time that it takes to fill the bottles with liquid. However, a fill cycle also includes the time it takes for bottles to index in and out of the fill area, as well as any number of other small increments of time such as the time it takes heads to dive on an overflow filler. The Adjust Pre-Sets Screen will show the operator the time for each of these tasks and allow for adjustment to make the fill as efficient as possible. While all these small amounts of time may seem incredibly difficult to get right and allow the machine to function correctly, keep in mind that in almost all cases, Liquid Packaging Solutions will load all necessary times into the machine before the equipment is delivered! And as the Recipe Screen explains below, adjusting the pre-sets is a very simple task.
ADJUST FILL TIMES
The Adjust Fill Times Screen will differ in appearance for the various filling machine types. Generally speaking, the Adjust Fill Times Menu will allow an operator to control either product flow time, pump speeds and durations or in the case of a piston filler, a simple number for the strokes of the piston necessary to complete the fill. Like the Adjust Pre-Sets Menu, fill times will usually be pre-set when equipment is delivered to the packager as long as product and bottles are provided for testing at the LPS facility.
AUTOMATIC INDEX SET UP SCREEN
Getting the right indexing time, that is, the correct amount of time it takes for bottles to enter and exit the fill area, is crucial to reliable and consistent filling. The Automatic Index Set Up Screen allows an operator to simply place bottles on the conveyor and press a button to get the correct indexing time, which will automatically be copied to the pre-sets screen.
The one screen that makes the set up and control of the filler a simple process is the Recipe Screen. As noted above, most liquid fillers will be delivered with all settings already loaded for any and all bottles and products supplied to LPS for testing of the machine. For this reason, LPS always requests all bottles and products. As each bottle and product combination is set up for production, all of the settings can be assigned a number and saved to the Recipe Screen. So when a specific bottle and product combination is run, the operator only needs to recall the correct number and all settings will be loaded, leaving the machine ready to run. Keeping a record of the recipes is truly what makes setting up LPS filling machines a simple process, or the touch of a button!
While the menus and settings within the menus may differ from project to project, LPS liquid filling machines are always built to make the set-up process as easy as possible for the operator of the machine. In addition to the simple controls, LPS offers installation and training to help get the equipment up and running and to ensure the packager's operators thoroughly understand the machine controls, even if they will spend more time on the Recipe Screen than any other screen. To learn more about filling machinery and LPS controls, contact a Packaging Specialist at Liquid Packaging Solutions today.