Liquid Packaging Equipment Speed Considerations
Packaging machinery speed is a topic that has been covered previously on the Liquid Packaging Solutions website. However, a return to the topic is warranted, as new packagers do not always define automation levels in the same way. In addition, machine speed is a question that almost always arises, for good reason, when discussing a project with a new packager. Unfortunately, this question is often one of the first asked by new packagers, and the answer simply requires additional information to be anywhere near accurate!
Determining what type of speed is necessary in a project can also help determine what level of automation will suit the project. However, there is a distinction in the accuracy of machine speed between automatic and semi-automation equipment. An analysis of automatic machinery will show that the determination of speed, often referred to as bottles per minute, is really nothing more than a mathematical equation. As an example, imagine a 12 head automatic filling machine set along a power conveyor filling a larger container. The bottles will take 5 seconds to index and 7 seconds to be filled. Adding another 3 seconds for other delays and durations (such as a head dive, a container available sensor or others) will bring the cycle time to 15 seconds. In other words, 12 bottles will be filled every 15 seconds, which gives us a machine speed of 48 bottles per minute. While this example is somewhat simplified, you can see that the speed will depend on the size of the bottles, the amount of product or length of the fill, the speed of the conveyor for indexing and too many other factors to list here. However, adding all these time factors together creates a fill cycle, and with automated equipment those times will typically not change unless and until containers, product or some other function is changed, which is why the simple equation can be used to accurately determine speed.
Semi-automatic packaging equipment provides a less accurate equation to determine machine speed. While generally the same factors mentioned above for automatic equipment will apply, one additional factor makes the speed hard to estimate. Semi-automatic equipment will almost always require human interaction with each cycle. On a bottle filler, the operator would place the bottles, activate the fill and remove the containers after the fill. While times can be estimated for these tasks involving human interaction, they are less likely to remain consistent. Humans take breaks, use the bathroom, speak to other humans and generally get fatigued after eight or more hours of work. So though an estimate can be determined for the semi-automatic filling machine, the actual speed of the machine will depend in large part on the operator of that machine. The same is true of rinsing machines, capping machines and generally any semi-automatic equipment.
So for new packagers, do not be discouraged when an LPS representative responds to your question of machine speed with some questions of their own. The determination of speed will require an analysis of the packaging project as a whole! To discuss your own project and speed requirements with a Packaging Specialist, feel free to contact LPS today.