Filling Machinery for the Future
Filling Machinery for the Future
As we have discussed on previous occasions, simply planning for the future can extend the useful life of almost any piece of packaging machinery. There are several modifications and upgrades that can be performed on filling machines that will allow the machine to handle more and more product demand. These upgrades and modifications allow a company to purchase only the equipment necessary with current needs while also letting the machine grow with the company, thus extending the useful life. Below are a few of the more common modifications or upgrades.
Additional Fill Heads
One of the first inquiries regarding filling equipment is often in regard to how many bottles per minute can be run on the machine. The answer to this question is often how many bottles per minute do you want or need it to run. Nozzles on liquid fillers can range in number from one to usually sixteen, though there may be some custom applications that stretch that range.
In general, the fill bar (or in some cases the tank) can be manufactured with up to sixteen ports, even if there will only be two, three or four nozzles when the machine is initially placed into production. Each port in turn delivers product to a single nozzle for placement into the bottle or other container. The additional ports will be plugged unless and until increased production is achieved. Once a large enough increase in production is achieved, the packager can simply open up one or more ports and add more fill heads to the machine. A simple process that allows the machine to grow as production grows.
PLC's and Program Changes
Many times the first liquid filler for a packager will not be a fully automated machine. Instead, the packager will opt for a semi-automatic machine, requiring an operator to move bottles into and out of the fill area and begin the fill cycle for each new set of bottles. Again, as production increases, the packager may find that full automation is necessary. The semi-automatic fillers can be built on the same frame as the automatic machines, allowing an upgrade to the existing filler to allow automation.
Adding a Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) or upgrading the existing program, depending on the existing machine, will allow the transformation to automatic production. The PLC will allow vision systems to count bottles and avoid jams on the conveyor system while also letting the operator set all necessary parameters such as fill times, pump speeds and more.
Indexing systems are a component of the transformation from semi-automatic machinery to automatic equipment. An indexing system works with the vision system mentioned above to ensure that the correct amount of bottles enter the fill area each cycle. Different indexing systems will work with different container types and sizes, with some of the more common types being pin, star wheel and screw systems. Some indexing systems will also add speed to the process as well. Adding an indexing system removes the necessity for the operator to manually move, or index, bottles in and out of the fill area with each cycle.
For anyone having success in packaging a product, the purchase of a filling machine will more than likely become inevitable at some point in the life of the business. Ensuring that the equipment can be used even as demand continues to grow simply makes good business sense.