Five Filling Concerns for Packagers (and the Solutions)
Five Filling Concerns For Packagers (And The Solutions)
Looking for the right packaging equipment for your product can be an intimidating process, especially if you are launching your first product. But for any successful packager, production demands will eventually turn the desire for packaging machinery into a necessity. Most concerns for new packagers will surround the filling equipment, as it is typically the one piece of equipment that will come in contact with the product itself, also making it the most likely machine to be affected by unique product characteristics. However, what is unique to the new packager, or to the packager of a new product, is not necessarily unique to the packaging machine manufacturer. Below are five filling concerns that arise on a fairly consistent basis in the industry, along with the most common solutions for those concerns.
1. Foamy Products
Certain beverages, cleaners and a slew of other products have a tendency to create foam when agitated, and that agitation can come from moving the product through the filling machinery and into the waiting bottles or other containers. The issue is pretty clear, too much foam during the filling process and a packager ends up with a half full bottle once the product settles. The overflow filling principle provides one solution for foamy products. This machine is built using special fill nozzles that allow the product to recirculate to a holding tank or a waste reservoir. The overflow out of the nozzle helps to control the foam while also filling each bottle to the same level with liquid product. Where other filling principles need to be utilized, chrome foamers can also be added to nozzles to assist in the control of the suds.
2. High Viscosity Products
In general terms, higher viscosity products do not flow as freely as those with lower viscosities. Water, for example, has a low viscosity and flows freely. Honey has a much higher viscosity and tends to have more resistance to flow. A packager with a high viscosity product may have concerns about getting the product from the tank to the bottle or container. The solution here lies in the type of filling machine or filling principle being used as well. Both piston and pump fillers are used to move higher viscosity products, basically adding a little extra push to the filling process. As a general rule, and there are exceptions, lower viscosity, free-flowing products will be run on overflow and gravity filling machines. Pumps and pistons will be used to fill higher viscosity products and "push" it through the product pathway.
3. Hot Fill Products
Some products will change viscosity based on temperature. The best example of such a product would be a candle or other molten items. These products are solid when used, but still need to be placed into a container, perhaps a glass jar using our candle example above. The solution for filling these products is to keep them at a steady high temperature (or in liquid form!) for the duration of the fill process. This concern is often solved by heating not only the product holding tank, but also the entire pathway of the product through the filling machine, including the fill nozzles. Once the product reaches the container, the cooling process starts, and often an extended conveyor or accumulation conveyor will be used to allow the product to set before being capped, labeled or otherwise packaged.
4. Products with Particulates
Salsas, salad dressings, jams, soaps and other products will sometimes contain particulates. In the examples in the last sentence, salsas may contain peppers, seeds and spices. Salad dressings may also have seeds and spices, while jams might contain chunks of fruit and soaps can include grit to help in the cleaning process. So how do you make sure the particulates make it through the product pathway and into the container? For smaller or fine particulates, there is a chance that no modification or special equipment will be necessary. The particulates may simply move through the product pathway and into the container, assuming they can fit through the product opening. For larger particulates, like the jam example above, a piston filler will often be utilized. These filling machines pull product into an open cylnder, then using a piston to push product into the waiting containers. Large, open nozzles can be added to allow larger particulates to flow through. A product agitator will often be used in the holding tank as well, to ensure that large particulates stay spread throughout the batch and do not settle to the bottom or float to the top.
5. Harsh Chemical Products
While harsh chemicals may not have a problem flowing through tubing and into containers, they do not always play nice with the construction materials used for packaging machinery, which is typically stainless steel. Packagers of bleach, acids and other similar products may correctly be concerned with the useful life of their packaging equipment. This may be the simplest of all the solutions, manufacturers will just not use stainless steel on these occasions. Filling equipment, power conveyors and other packaging machines can be build using HDPE or other materials to ensure that the product or atmosphere will not adversely effect the equipment. So while stainless steel can be used for packaging machinery 90% of the time, there is a solution for that other 10%.
While these filling concerns may seem like legitimate and worrisome issues for a product or products, the solutions are all fairly simple and straightforward. These issues, while unique, have been encountered by professionals in the packaging machinery manufacturing industry time and time again, allowing these men and women to provide the best solution on a case-by-case basis.
Erik M. Arndt has spent his Packaging Industry career with Liquid Packaging Solutions, Inc., in LaPorte, Indiana. To learn more about the Industry, visit the company's website at http://www.liquidpackagingsolution.com where you can learn about a variety of machinery and even create your own packaging system.
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