Bottle Loading Options for Automatic Packaging Equipment
Once an automatic packaging system is set up, a method of supplying containers to the system must be used to meet production expectations. Though manual labor could be used to place each individual container on the conveyor, in many cases such a practice would simply defeat the purpose of the automatic system itself. Manually placing each container on the conveyor would likely mean that the filling machine, capping machine and other equipment would continually be waiting for the bottle loader to catch up, making an efficient packaging line work inefficiently. Luckily, there are several options for loading containers on to a line.
Static Bottle Hoppers
If a packager would like to use manual labor to load bottles on to an automatic line, perhaps due to space constraints or for any other reason, there are still ways to make this task easier and more efficient. A static bottle hopper allows bulk bottles to be dumped into a bin, which can then be placed at or over the conveyor at the beginning of the packaging system. The person loading bottles can then quickly and easily pull bottles from the bin and orient the bottles on the conveyor if necessary. However, this method still uses manual labor, meaning there may be issues keeping up with machinery from time to time.
Loading turntables will also use manual labor to deliver bottles to the automatic packaging line, but has an advantage over the bottle hoppers. Rather than loading containers directly on to the conveyor, the loading turntable allows the bottles to be placed on to the turntable top, which then delivers the containers to the main power conveyor. The turntable allows more surface area to load bottles, whereas the operator of the bottle hopper may have to wait for containers to move in order to load the next group. Turntables can also be manufactured with a loading table, allowing manual labor a space to open or place containers. The extra surface space can allow those loading bottles to get ahead of the machinery as well, meaning other tasks can be added, such as loading bulk closures in to a cap delivery system or changing out label rolls to keep the automatic line running smoothly.
Another method of loading containers that will use manual labor is the loading or laning conveyor. This machine consists of a loading table leading into a laning conveyor. The laning conveyor lines up bottles or other containers into rows to be delivered to the main power conveyor system. Again, the operators may be able to get ahead of the machinery to assist the whole packaging line in other ways, as noted above. Laning conveyors will typically be used on projects that use non-round bottles, as such containers may not work efficiently with a loading turntable.
Bottle Unscambling Machines
Finally, for higher speed lines, bottle unscramblers can be manufactured for quick and efficient loading of containers on to a line. Bottle unscramblers simply allow the operator of a packaging line to dump bulk bottles in to a hopper. From here, the machine will orient and place the containers onto the main conveyor system, while the operator will only need to replenish bulk bottles from time to time. The only drawbacks to a bottle unscrambler on the packaging line are the added space and the higher cost for higher automation. While attractive for the automation level, not all systems will require a bottle unscrambler to keep the machinery found on the line busy.