Filling Machines and Automation Levels For Any Packager
Just like the companies that use them, filling machines come in a variety of different sizes. Smaller, semi-automatic filling machines work well for companies that produce products for local or regional sale, with limited production demand. Fully automatic liquid fillers are ideal for companies with national or worldwide sales and high production demand. In between these two extremes are a number of different configurations to fit the needs of each and every packager. Below are three common configurations for filling machines at different levels of production.
TABLETOP BOTTLE FILLER
As noted above, tabletop fillers are used by companies with lower production demands, or restrictive space for packaging equipment. These machines, as the name suggests, will sit on a table to allow for quick, accurate and consistent product filling. Tabletop machines, like any of the other levels of automation, can use a number of different filling principles, from fill-to-level overflow techniques to volumetric filling via a gravity filler, pump filler or piston filler, as well as less common principles. Tabletop filling machines typically require the operator to place bottles, activate the fill and remove the bottles once the fill is completed. A slide track will normally be used to allow the operator to line up bottles under the fill heads. Once in place, the operator will usually use finger or foot switches to activate the fill. Once completed, the bottles can be slid off the track to the next packaging phase, be it capping, labeling or some other process. Depending on the type of filling principle used, even tabletop machines will allow for some growth through the addition of more fill heads as production demand increases.
SEMI-AUTOMATIC FULL FRAME BOTTLE FILLER
Semi-automatic filling machines are not relegated only to tabletop machines. Full-frame semi-automatic machines are also available from Liquid Packaging Solutions. Full-frame means that these semi-automatic machines are built on the same frames as fully automatic machines. While some operator interaction is still necessary, these machines allow a few more levels of automation than their tabletop counterparts. Full-frame machines may work in the same manner as the tabletop machines, meaning the operator will be necessary for bottle placement, fill activation and bottle removal. However, these machines can be upgraded all the way to fully automatic production through the addition of an indexing system and a PLC as production demand increases. Again, numerous different filling principles can be used on the semi-automatic machinery, allowing just about any product to be filled, from low viscosity, free-flowing products to higher viscosity liquids and semi-solids.
FULLY AUTOMATIC BOTTLE FILLER
Fully automatic filling machines are normally used by those companies that have higher production demands. Again all of the filling principles discussed above are available on these liquid fillers. Operators of automatic equipment will need to perform set up (and possibly changeover with multiple container or products) on the machine before production begins. However, outside of minimal manual changeover - which is normally completed with simply hand knobs - of head position, conveyor railing and similar components, set up will be performed at a centrally located touchscreen interface. In fact, in most cases filling machines will be pre-programmed for bottle and product combinations before delivery to the facility, leaving the operator to simply recall settings from a Recipe screen and begin production! From here, an indexing system is used in combination with a power conveyor to correctly position bottles under fill heads. Sensors are used to send a signal to the machine to begin filling and bottles are released on the power conveyor to move to the capper, labeler and other downstream equipment. In other words, once set up is complete, the operator simply monitors the system to ensure it is working properly.
While these three types of filling machines constitute a majority of the equipment produced by LPS, there are a variety of ways to manufacture fillers in between the three designs described above. Each filling machine created by Liquid Packaging Solutions will be custom built to meet the needs of the individual product and process at hand. LPS representatives are always available to discuss the different options and assist in identifying the ideal filling solution for any project.