Filling Machine Interface: Auto Indexing Set-Up
Indexing is only one part of setting up a filling machine to run automatic production. However, it is a very important part of ensuring consistent performance, and can be a tedious process if conducted through trial and error. For this reason, almost all automatic bottle fillers will include a separate control screen for the automatic set-up of bottle indexing. The screen itself is very simple, typically consisting of three buttons or controls and a timer. One button will start the automatic set-up process, one will clear the time and the third button will allow the times to be saved.
To understand the time saving benefits of the Auto Indexing Set-Up screen, let's briefly look at the process if it were done without the screen. Most machines will use a pin indexing system consisting of an entry gate and an exit gate. Setting up the indexing requires an operator to find the amount of time that the entry gate should be open to allow containers in as well as the time that the exit gate should be open to allow containers to move down the power conveyor once filled. Bottles would need to be lined up along the conveyor with the operator manually opening the gate to allow bottles in while timing the movement. From here, the amount of time taken to fill bottles would also need to be calculated, to determine the time that should pass before the exit gate opens. In addition, there should be a slight pause between the opening of the exit gate and the opening of the entry gate, to allow some space between outgoing and incoming containers, discouraging interference from cycle to cycle.
The Auto Indexing Set-Up, along with vision systems and other PLC controls found on the automatic liquid filler, instead allows the operator use the three buttons mentioned above to complete the process of finding times quickly and easily. The operator will still line bottles up on the conveyor system, but need not worry about finding times. Pushing the start ASU button allows the PLC to calculate the ideal indexing times, leaving the operator to then save the times, which will become a part of the recipe along with all other settings and options. The long and tedious process of finding times becomes a matter of minutes thanks to this useful screen.
As we have noted before, the Recipe Screen, which we will discuss later this week, allows all times and settings to be stored for any bottle and product combination, drastically reducing set-up time for the filling machine. In addition, LPS will pre-set these recipes at the factory when bottles and product are supplied to test the machine. As with all of our packaging equipment, LPS strives to make the set-up and operation of our filling machines as efficient and as easy as possible.