Case Study - Quick Bottle Filler Changeover

More companies than not will use more than one bottle type or size when packaging their product. While a filling machine can accommodate a number of both shapes and sizes, the ease or difficulty of changing over from one container to another can have a profound affect on down time and the amount of product output on any given day. Liquid Packaging Solutions manufactures equipment to be as quick and easy as possible when it comes to changeover. Though each project may require some variation, we will take a quick look at changing over from one bottle to another on a typical automatic overflow filler.

First and foremost, fill times, indexing times and other settings will typically be found and recorded in the PLC prior to the delivery of the machine to the factory floor. So assuming that LPS has samples of bottles and products before manufacturing takes place, many of the settings can be recalled by simply loading a recipe on the PLC touchscreen interface. Leaving only physical adjustments such as indexing pins, conveyor rail and nozzle location for the operators of the equipment. However, we will assume that our sample company is introducing a new container, and walk through the one time process for all settings.

An automatic overflow filler is built with nozzles that dive to seal over the opening of a container. Once sealed, liquid is released into the container until it reaches a set location at which time the product will overflow, normally back in to the holding tank. Heads then release and bottles will move down the power conveyor when released by the indexing pin (other indexing systems are available, but we will use pin indexing for our example).

Without the recipe already loaded into the screen, a few steps will be necessary to prepare the new containers for a production run. First, assuming that the container is a new shape or size, conveyor railings will need to be adjusted to allow for smooth, but stable, movement through the filling machine. Conveyor rail can be adjusted by simply loosening fingertip knobs and sliding the railing in and out, or up and down, to the best position for the bottle. Once the railing is set, an operator will place bottles under the nozzles in order to adjust the fill heads. Again, if bottles are thicker or wider than the previously run container, fill heads can be adjusted with a fingertip knob to move them to their proper spacing under the fill bar. The operator will simply slide the nozzles left or right to the proper position. Indexing pins may also need to be adjusted as the new bottles may take up more or less space under the fill bar. This is accomplished by loosening, moving and tightening a bolt to place the pins in their proper position. The same may need to be done for the sensor that "counts" bottles as they enter the fill area and tell the PLC when it is time to begin the fill.

Assuming bottle height has changed, the operator will need to adjust both the height of the nozzles and the spacers for the fill level. Power height adjustments allow the operator to flip a switch to bring nozzles higher or lower as they relate to the bottles on the conveyor. Spacers on each nozzle are used to adjust how far in to the bottles the nozzles reach during the fill, setting the fill level for the container. While finding these settings may take a little trial and error, no special tools are required and each will only need to be performed once, as the recipe screen will save the settings once found.

From here, the PLC allows for set up of indexing and fill times. Using the touchscreen interface, the operator will position the bottles on the conveyor and press a button for automatic indexing times. Containers will move in and out of the fill area and the time will be calculated and recorded by the machine, which can then also be saved in a Recipe. Bottles can then be filled by the operator using the PLC as well, in order to find the proper amount of time necessary for a complete and level fill. Different filling machines may include other settings, such as pump speed and delay and duration times for components like drip trays and bottle grabbers. However, once again none of these adjustments require special tools and none will need to be performed more than once.

After all physical and time-based changes have been completed, the operator can simply pull up the Recipe Screen on the PLC to record all settings (minus the physical adjustments - conveyor railing, height setting, indexing pins) for recall at a later time. Production is now ready to begin, and the recipe can be recalled on the PLC in the future when the same product and container combination are being used. Again, going back to the first bottle would require only the physical setting adjustments and the recall of the recipe for that bottle. This quick and easy set up and changeover increases efficiency by significantly reducing downtime for those packagers with multiple changeovers in their production schedule.