Handling Smaller Containers On a Packaging Line
Just as large containers can lead to custom packaging machinery design, small containers on the opposite extreme of the spectrum can also call for unique solutions. While some of the same concepts come in to play, such as bottle stability, the solutions for smaller containers will often differ from the solutions for the larger counterparts.
Sticking with bottle stability, extra guiderails that work for large containers will simply not do the trick for small bottles, vials, tubes and other containers, as the lack of surface area in general deters such a solution. For smaller packages, bottle stability is often achieved by using a puck to move containers down a conveyor and from one machine to another. Generally speaking, a puck will be a block with a custom nest or opening that allows a small container to sit inside the block. This solution allows even containers with rounded bottles, such as vials and tubes, to be handled and transported fairly easily, while also making indexing through machines more simple.
With normal and even large bottles, pin indexing will often be utilized for indexing containers in and out of rinse, fill and other packaging areas. The indexing system allows containers to consistently be lined up under nozzles or heads for the task at hand. With small containers this can sometimes be an issue, as the spacing of the fill heads will not allow multiple containers to be run at once. In some cases, pucks will also solve this issue, creating needed space. However, other processes may move away from inline packaging and utilize a monoblock system with starwheel indexing. Ideal for smaller containers, each pocket on the starwheel will accommodate a single bottle, tube, vial or other container. As an added advantage for smaller containers, a starwheel can stop the container at different positions around a single starwheel to fill, cap, purge or otherwise prepare product.
Of course, certain machines may take preference for smaller containers, or require specific modification, just like when packaging larger bottles. Smaller nozzles will obviously be used on a filling machine when trying to put low volumes of liquid in to a small opening. Chuck capping machines will often take precedence over the popular spindle capper when screwing a cap on to a smaller container, again taking advantage of the starwheel indexing and the stability it provides.
As always, actual container size, along with shape, speed and other considerations can vary from project to project, leading to custom machinery or modifications for the specific project or process. To consult with a Packaging specialist on your own project, with containers both large and small, contact Liquid Packaging Solutions today.