Filling Equipment Automation - Sensors

Filling Equipment Automation - Sensors

Automatic filling machines allow the packagers of liquids to significantly increase the number of products that can be packaged each day.  In a majority of cases, the liquid fillers will be combined with other packaging machinery, such as capping machines, labelers and other equipment.  These machines must work in harmony, an issue with any one component of a packaging line will negatively affect the entire line.  Utilizing sensors with a filling machine helps to ensure that the filling machine itself runs properly and stays in harmony with the entire packaging line.

A count sensor on a filling machine will serve a dual purpose.  First, it will count the number of bottles entering the fill area as they move down the conveyor system.  Once the right number of bottles have entered the filling machine (which will almost always be the number of fill heads on the machine), the indexing system will stop additional bottles from moving into the area.  At this point, the count sensor more or less becomes an activating sensor.  The count sensor will now "see" the first bottle to be filled during the next cycle.  Once it sees this bottle for a set amount of time, the sensor basically tells the filling machine that all bottles are in place and the fill cycle will begin.  

In addition to the count sensor, another sensor will be used in the filling machine tank to ensure that product is always available.  This float type sensor will send a signal to a pump when the liquid level in the tank becomes low.  The pump will then re-supply the tank with product so that the fill cycles will continue uninterrupted.  There is no need for the operator of the packaging line to add product to the supply tank.  The operator of the packaging line will only need to check the bulk product supply on occasion to make sure product is not running low.  

Finally, sensors will be used on a filling machine to make certain that the rest of the packaging line is functioning correctly.  Should an error occur on the capping machine or the labeler downstream from the liquid filler, bottles are likely to jam.  If the filling machine continued to function normally in this situation, the bottle jam would continue to grow and could lead to extensive downtime for cleanup and maintenance.  Instead, if a downstream sensor sees a bottle sitting in the same position on the conveyor system for an extended period of time, it will tell the filling machine to finish the current fill cycle and then pause until the downstream jam is cleared.  The ability of the filling machine to sense these downstream issues allows errors to be cleared in a minimal amount of time and stops the problem from compounding.

While these are the main sensors that will be found on an automatic filling machine, other sensors may be used for special projects or unique components on a packaging line.  These sensors are the communication system for the entire packaging line as well as individual machines, allowing the packaging equipment to function with the highest efficiency and reliability possible.