Filling Machine Set-up: Why Are Recipes So Important?
Filling Machine Set-Up: Why Are Recipes So Important?
Almost all automatic filling machines tout the ability to save recipes as a standard feature of the equipment. But why are recipes so important on an automatic filling machine? The simple answer is to save time - and quite a bit of it over the long run. The recipe screen allows the operator of a liquid filler to pull up all of the necessary settings to run production of a particular bottle, recalling these settings from the last time the bottle was run.
Initial set up of an automatic filling machine will require the setting of fill times, indexing times and other parameters that make up the fill cycle. Usually, all of these settings are factory pre-set and saved to the liquid filler's PLC as a recipe before the filler even reaches the production floor. In the absence of these recipes, the parameters would have to be found and set each time the specific bottle was used in production.
To better illustrate the importance of recipe screens, imagine a company running two different bottles on the same filling machine every day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Without the recipe screen, each morning the operator of the filling machine would need to line up bottles under the fill heads and find the correct fill times using the Adjust Fill Times Menu on the operator interface. Fill times that are too long can lead to spills, inconsistent fills or just lost production time. Fill times that are too short will also lead to inconsistent fills, low product levels and, likely, unhappy customers. Setting the fill time is a trial and error process to find the ideal settings for a consistent fill and efficient production.
The fill time, however, is only one component of setting up the fill cycle. In addition to finding the fill time, the operator would need to set indexing times and other parameters to complete the fill cycle. The indexing times can be set with the assistance of the touchscreen operator interface, but would require lining up bottles on the power conveyor to set these times. Delay times for head dive, pump starts, sensors and other filling machine components must be set to allow the fill cycle to consistently and reliably fill bottles. Again, these settings will take some trial and error to find the ideal times.
Once all of this is done, the machine is ready to begin automatic production. However, these same adjustments would have to be made for the second bottle in the afternoon, severely cutting into the actual time that bottles are filled.
Instead of spending all of this time - twice a day - finding the correct times and settings, the operator can simply go to the recipe screen on the filling machine operator interface and enter the correct recipe to pull up all relevant settings entered at the factory, hit enter and begin production.
Of course, there are times when a new bottle or container is introduced to a liquid filler after the machine is placed on the production floor. Obviously, the settings for the new bottle could not be pre-set at the factory. Still, the operator of the filler would need only go through the process of finding the relevant settings one time, then save the recipe to the PLC. The second time the bottle is set up for production, the recipe will simply be recalled from the memory of the PLC.
So while the recipe screen may be an afterthought or taken for granted by some, it is actually an incredibly useful, time saving tool. For this simple reason, it is important to ensure that the packaging machinery manufacturer receives samples of all bottles to be run through the automatic filling machine.
TIP: ALWAYS KEEP A HARD COPY OF THE SETTINGS FOR EACH OF YOUR BOTTLES. EVEN THE BEST TECHNOLOGY IS SUSCEPTIBLE TO WATER DAMAGE, HUMAN ERROR OR POWER SURGES. KEEPING A HARD COPY OF RECIPES CAN SAVE A TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF TIME IF RECOVERY EVER BECOMES NECESSARY.