Defining Semi-automatic and Automatic Capping Machines

Defining Semi-Automatic and Automatic Capping Machines

Almost all packaging machines can be manufactured in such a way as to run automatic production.  From conveyors and turntables to liquid fillers, capping machines and more, packaging machinery is built with the ability to diminish the need for human contact almost to nil.  On the other hand, these same machines can be constructed to perform in a manner that we term less than automatic, or semi-automatic.  Semi-automatic machines include some automated components, but human interaction will still play a larger part in making the equipment both reliable and efficient.  With capping machines, there is normally one component that will separate a semi-automatic capper from its automatic counterpart.
Of course, there are a number of different types of capping machines, each of which will be manufactured slightly differently than the others.  But considering a number of different types of cappers - spindle cappers, snap cappers, chuck cappers, ROPP cappers and others - there still exists one component that most often separates the semi-automatic from the automatic.  
Almost any semi-automatic capping machine will require the operator of the machine to deliver the cap to the bottle (or lid to the container when bottles are not used).  For example, a semi-automatic chuck capper may be a tabletop capping machine.  When using the tabletop chuck capper, the operator will place a cap on the bottle, then place the bottle and cap under the chuck head.  The chuck head will then descend and tighten the cap onto the bottle.  A semi-automatic chuck capper may also be built to run with a conveyor system.  Here, the operator would still be required to place the cap on the bottle, and then place the bottle and cap onto the power conveyor system.  The chuck capper would then complete the tightening of the cap.  
An automatic, inline chuck capper, however, would include a cap delivery system to allow for nearly continuous tightening of caps without human interaction needed for each and every bottle.  As bottles come down the power conveyor, the cap delivery system - usually a cap elevator or vibratory bowl - will present one cap to each bottle as it moves into the cap tightening area.  Instead of handling every bottle and cap, the operator of the automatic packaging machine need only ensure that caps are available to the sorting device, increasing efficiency while also relieving the operator of manual labor duties.
The same example can be set forth for snap cappers, spindle cappers and even ROPP capping machines. Each of these types of capping machines can be manufactured to operate in a semi-automatic mode, requiring the operator to, at a minimum, introduce the cap to the bottle.  However, each type of capping machine mentioned above can also be manufactured as an automatic capper, the biggest change being the introduction of a cap delivery system.  
Packagers should beware though, that not all semi-automatic capping machines can be upgraded to automatic status by simply adding a cap delivery system.  While one can argue that such a feat is possible in theory, it does not play out that way in practice.  If a packager is looking for an upgradeable capping machine, the best bet is to look at machines that are built on a portable frame, similar or identical to the automatic cappers.  The portable frame semi-automatic machines can usually roll right up to an existing power conveyor system and work with other packaging machinery such as rinsing machines, filling machines and labeling equipment.  When the time comes, the cap delivery system can be added to the semi-automatic machine, and with a few adjustments and/or additions to the control box, the transformation to automatic capper - and increased efficiency - can be made without purchasing all new capping equipment.