Filling Machine Overview
FILLING MACHINE OVERVIEW
Filling equipment comes in a variety of different forms and uses a number of different methods to package products. Speaking in very general terms, a packager will want to look at two separate factors when deciding on which filling machine to use for thier product. The first is the level of automation required to meet production demands and the second is the principle of the fill needed to efficiently move product. While other factors, such as container size, may play a part in selecting specific filling machinery, or in customizing the machinery, the two factors mentioned above will quickly identify the basic filling equipment that will best suit your product.
FILLING MACHINERY - LEVEL OF AUTOMATION
Filling machines can be manufactured to work with automatic inline packaging systems. However, they can also be manufactured to work as stand alone, semi-automatic machines, as monoblock or uniframe packaging systems that combine the filler with capping machinery, labeling machinery and other equipment, or even as labor driven tabletop filling machines that will fill one or two bottles at a time. Obviously, automatic packaging machinery will produce more filled bottles in a shorter period of time than will the labor driven, tabletop models. Knowing how many bottles per minute, hour or day you need to fill will help to identify the level of automation necessary for your filling machine.
However, even within each type of filling machine (automatic, semi-automatic, tabletop, custom), there is room for some give and take regarding the speed of the liquid fillers. High production levels may require an eight head automatic filling machine. Though such a machine would indicate production levels that are somewhat high already, the filling equipment can be manufactured to allow up to another eight fill heads to be added in the future. This, in turn, means that the equipment will be able to handle up to two times the packagers current production requirements! This allows Liquid Packaging Solutions to manufacture filling machinery that will not only suit a company's current needs, but the needs that will be required with the growth of the company as well.
As we have noted on numerous other occasions on this website, different types of products require different filling principles. Generally, the viscosity of the product, and any other unique traits of the product, will determine the filling principle for any given liquid filler. Thin, free-flowing products are ideal for overflow fillers and gravity fillers. Overflow fillers use a fill to level system that also recycles product back to the supply tank if it "overflows" during any given fill cycle. The unique overflow nozzles release product into the container. However, once the product reaches a certain level, it is forced out the return port of the overflow nozzle and back to the supply tank. This technique also makes the overflow filler ideal for foamy products or for projects where the interior of bottles may vary but fill level is important for display purposes.
Gravity filling machines use a time based filling principle for free flowing products. Essentially, nozzles open and close at pre-set times, allowing product to flow into the containers during that pre-set period. Gravity fillers do not return excess product to the supply tank, but by opening and closing nozzles at set times, excess product will not be an issue. For products that tend to drip or foam, special nozzles can be used on the gravity filler to control these issues.
Thicker viscosities call for a little more than gravity to complete the filling process. Thick products are likely to use either a pump filling machine or a piston filler. Pump filling equipment will use a specific pump matched to the individual product to complete the transfer of product from tank to bottle or container. Pump fillers may use a number of different nozzle types and sizes as well to ensure the flow of the given product into the bottles. Gear pumps, positive displacement pumps, peristaltic pumps and others may be used on any given liquid filler, just depending on the characteristics of the product. Peristaltic pumps, for example, are ideal for thicker pharmaceutical type products as the prodcut simply runs through the special tubing and into the container, never coming into contact with pump parts.
Piston fillers allow thicker products to be filled with a high volumetric accuracy. The piston on these liquid fillers will retract from a cylinder while pulling product into that same cylinder. Since the piston is set to retract to the same position each and every cycle, the same volume of product enters the cylinder with each fill cycle. When the piston returns to the cylinder, it pushes the product out into the waiting container. Both pump fillers and piston fillers can handle thicker products as well as products with particulates, like salad dressings or the fruits found in some jams and jellies.
Applying the information above, we can look at a packager of bottled water and ask first how many bottles per day the plant must produce. If the bottled water plant wants to produce 10,000 bottles per day, in an eight hour day, we can break that down into about 1,250 bottles per hour and 20-22 bottles per minute. The best choice for this facility is likely an automatic liquid filler. Now we know the company is packaging water, a free-flowing, low viscosity product. Water is also a product that can be recycled into the supply tank without concern. Therefore, the ideal packaging machine for this project is an automatic overflow filler. Other details may be garnered to modify the machine for space, cost or other specific concerns, but the final machine produced will still likely be an automated overflow filler.
If you need assistance in identifying the ideal filling machine for your project, you can contact a Packaging Specialist at Liquid Packaging Solutions, Inc. via our toll free number at 1-888-393-3693.