Filling Equipment Changeovers

Filling Equipment Changeover

Whether you are using a tabletop filling machine, semi-automatic filler or completely automatic filling equipment, if you are running more than one bottle shape or size, some adjustments will need to be made when switching from one bottle to another.  As most liquid packagers will use different bottle sizes, this is a consideration that must be taken into account when the filling machines are manufactured.  Difficult, time-consuming changeovers mean less time packaging product, which in the end affects the bottom line.  Below is a brief overview of how changeover is kept quick and easy on the different filling machines.


Tabletop liquid filling machines are manufactured for facilities that have low to medium production demands.  These space saving filling machines fit, as you might have guessed, on a tabletop.  Still, they use the same filling principles as automatic machinery - overflow, gravity, pump, piston - and can handle a fairly wide range of bottle shapes and sizes.  Most tabletop filling machines are equipped with a slide track.  Operators of the tabletop filling machine simply slide a bottle along the slide track until it is lined up under the fill head, then use a switch to begin the fill cycle.  The slide track may include railing to help stabilize the bottle.  When switching bottles, simple knobs can be loosened to allow this railing to be raised or lowered and widened or narrowed until it accommodates the bottle to be filled.  
Similarly, the fill head may need to be raised or lowered to accommodate different bottles.  A simple hand crank, normally found at the top of the tabletop filler frame, can be turned left or right to adjust the height of the fill head.  Once these two adjustments are made, the packaging machine is ready to start filling the new bottles with product. 


Semi-automatic liquid filling machines are often built on the same frame as automated machinery.  The main difference between the two being the indexing used to move bottles through the fill cycle.  A semi-automatic filling machine will normally not use an indexing system.  Instead, the operator of the machine will place the bottles under the fill heads and, like the tabletop liquid fillers, initiate the fill cycle with a hand or foot switch.  These machines may use a conveyor to move bottles, but would then require a simple indexing system.  They may also include an extended slide track for loading and unloading containers.  The changeover for a semi-automatic machine will be very similar to the tabletop machines, though more knobs may need to be loosened.  Whether a conveyor or an extended slide track, the railing can be moved in or out and up or down to accommodate the bottle being filled.  The height adjustment may remain a simple hand crank, depending on the type of machine, but will more likely use a manual jack to raise or lower the fill heads as necessary.  
Semi-automatic machinery will also normally include additional fill heads, as tabletop fillers are rarely seen with more than four heads.  The operator of the filling equipment will want to line bottles up on the conveyor or slide track in order to adjust the fill heads when a new bottle is being used.  Still, the fill heads can normally be adjusted using a simple hand knob that will be tightened once the fill head is in position over the bottles.  In the end, the changeover time for a semi-automatic machine will be just about the same as the changeover for a tabletop filler, keeping production flowing all through the shift.


Automatic liquid filling machines will use an indexing system and a power conveyor to continuously cycle bottles through the filling machine.  However, the changeover procedure for automatic filling machines is not that much different than the semi-automatic machines.  The conveyor railing can once again easily be adjusted by loosening a few knobs.  The height adjustment for fill heads becomes even easier with automated machinery.  Almost all automatic filling machines will include a power height switch on the control panel.  The operator of the packaging line need simply flip the switch left or right to raise or lower the fill heads.  Finally, fingertip knobs will normally be used to adjust the width of the fill heads to accommodate different bottle sizes.
Of course, custom filling equipment may use different or unique adjustments.  But anyone looking for filling equipment should be sure to note the ease in which the machine can be changed over for different bottles.  Quick and easy changeover equals less production downtime, which equals a better bottom line!