Operator Interface for Automatic Filling Systems

Operator Interface for Automatic Filling Systems

Automatic Filling Systems manufactured by Liquid Packaging Solutions use Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC's) to allow sensors, cylinders, relays, solenoids and other components of the filling machine to function as necessary or when needed.  A PLC is, in general, a digitial computer designed specifically for the job to be performed - in this case filling bottles.  The operator of the filling machine will interact with the PLC through the Operator Interface.  The typical operator interface will consist of a touch screen located on the filler control box and include multiple screens for the different settings on the filling equipment.  While more than one interface is available, the typical filler operator interface is discussed in more detail below.


The Main Screen of the operator interface for filling equipment will normally include displays of the overall production count along with the infeed container count, or the number of containers to be filled each cycle by the automatic filling machine.  In addition, on/off controls for  items such as pumps, conveyors, the fill cycle itself and auxillary items, such as sensors and vision systems, will also be found on the Main Screen.  Finally, shortcuts to all of the additional control screens will be listed on the Filler\'s Main Screen.  This screen will appear on start up of the filling equipment and will allow the operator to quickly and easily get to the necessary settings.

The subscreens will normally include the following items:  manual toggle, filler set-up, adjust pre-sets, adjust fill times, auto indexing set-up, a recipe screen and an alarm screen.  Again, controls may vary for different filling equipment, but the typical subscreens are discussed briefly below.


This screen allows the operator to manually control different functions of the filling machine.  The screen can be useful for filler troubleshooting, general cleaning or maintenance.  Indexing pins or starwheels may be manually controlled on the manual toggle screen to ensure they are positioned correctly to stop and release bottles.  Pumps and conveyors may also be controlled by the operator from the manual toggle screen, allowing the operator to release product or reach a specific section of the belt conveyor system. 


The filler set-up screen generally allows the operator to turn certain components of the filling machine on or off during automatic operation.  Automatic indexing, diving heads, vision systems and other features of the filler may be activated or deactivated from this screen.  Certain bottles or production runs may require changes to the filler functions.


The pre-sets for the filler include all the delay and duration times that allow the filling machine to automatically and consistently fill bottles.  Duration times may include the amount of time an indexing gate stays open (to ensure the correct number of bottles enter or exit) or the amount of time a pump will run (to ensure the correct amount of product is dispensed to the bottles).  Delay times may include a pause after indexing before the heads start diving, to ensure the bottles are in place or a delay in shutting the pump off after a fill to avoid drips or inconsistent fills.  The pre-sets are normally factory set prior to the delivery of the machine and the recipe screen, discussed below, can be used to save pre-sets for different bottle types and sizes.


Depending on the type of filling machine - overflow filler, gravity filler, piston filler or pump filling machine - the controls for the fill times will differ on the operator interface.  In general, the fill times screen will allow the operator to adjust the amount of time that nozzles or fill heads remain open and dispensing product.  For some machines, each individual fill head can be controlled, on others, fill times may consist of adjusting the pump delay and duration times. 


The auto-indexing set-up screen makes it easy for the operator to determine the times necessary to move bottles into and out of the fill area.  The operator simply places containers on the conveyor and presses the Start ASU button on the filling machine touch screen.  The machine will use a vision system to move containers into place and determine the indexing times.  Once the times are established, the operator simply saves the times and the filling machine is ready to run automatic production.


The recipe screen allows the operator of the filling equipment to save all the times and parameters for a single bottle.  Once this bottle is taken offline, the operator can recall all the setting the next time production fills this same bottle, saving precious set-up time. 


This display screen will simply help the operator to troubleshoot should the filling machine not function properly for any reason.  The alarm screen will let the operator know if there is a bottle jam, if there is low product in the supply tank, or if someone has engaged the emergency stop feature of the filler, among other problems.  Once the issue has been resolved, the alarm screen can be reset and production can resume.

Again, the above description explains some of the features and controls of a typical control box found on filling equipment.  If you have questions regarding the control box or any of the other features of the filling machines manufactured by Liquid Packaging Solutions, contact a Packaging Specialist today at 1-888-393-3693.