Packaging Machinery Options Create Unique and Specific Equipment Solutions
Even when dealing with the same industry or the same type of products, the likelihood that one packaging system will be optimal for two different packagers is extremely low. There are simply too many factors in each packaging project, and as a result, machinery for each project will differ, if only slightly. While in some cases the same type of machine - overflow filler, spindle capper, power conveyors - may dominate a given industry, the options included on the machinery will allow the optimization of the equipment for each individual project. To demonstrate, we will look at three different machines and give some examples of how the machines may differ even when the products seem the same.
Overflow Filling Machines
Overflow fillers are used to fill bottles to a level, even where slight variances to the interior volume of the bottles exists. Many packagers use an overflow filler to create an even, aesethetically pleasing look once their products reach the shelf. The difference between one overflow filler and another may simply be the size of the nozzles used to fill the bottle. One filler may use a quarter inch nozzle to fill small bottles to a specific level, while another may use one inch or larger to fill containers with a higher volume capacity. While not a huge variance, the correct nozzles will create efficient machinery by reducing fill times and allowing the equipment to work with the range of bottles being used by the packager.
In some cases, the product being filled or the environment may require pneumatic construction of an overflow filler. Where a product or environment flammable or susceptible to explosions, the electrical requirements for a standard overflow filler may create an unacceptable hazard. The machine can then be manufactured to use only air, removing the danger of a spark or arc that could not only damage the equipment, but put operators at risk.
Finally, some companies will run multiple products that may require changeover several times in any given production day. When this is the case, cleaning the equipment between product changes can be crucial to avoid cross contamination, but it can also be time consuming as well. A Clean In Place, or CIP system, may be added to the machine to allow quick and easy flushing of product and cleaning of the tank and pathway.
Spindle Capping Machines
Spindle capping machines continuously tighten screw-on type closures of many different varieties, from flat caps to flip top lids to trigger sprayers. These machines normally use a cap delivery system such as an elevator or vibratory bowl to deliver caps to bottles as the enter the tightening area. The type of sorting device used on the spindle capper will depend on the variety of screw-on cap being used. Some caps may have a tendency to jam or prove difficult to sort with one of the devices and each specific project will use the solution best suited to the cap or caps being used.
Of course, the spindle capper is also built to handle a wide range of container sizes and types. Some containers, especially those that are large or oddly shaped, may require extra efforts to stabilize them as they pass through the capping area, as bottles must be stable to seal reliably and consistently. For this reason, an extra set of gripper belts may be used to guide bottles. On bottles with handles, a sensor may be used to tell the equipment when to release a cap to avoid caps being stripped by both the bottle opening and the handle. Again, these subtle changes allow the machines to be customized to the specific application of each packager.
For automatic equipment, each packager will likely use a system of power conveyors to move bottles from one machine to the next. First and foremost, the material used to construct the conveyor system must be matched to the product and environment at hand. For most projects, stainless steel will be the optimal choice for such a system, but even those products that do not react well with stainless steel must be packaged, such as bleaches, acids and certain chemicals. In these cases, covneyor systems will be constructed from HDPE to allow for optimal performance and increase the useful life of the equipment.
Just like the spindle capper, conveyors are built to handle a range of containers. For large, top-heavy or uniquely shaped containers, extra rail may be necessary to stabilize the vessels as they move through the packaging line. The extra rails prevent tipping, spilling and bottle jams that can create headaches for line operators.
Finally, conveyors can also be used for more than just moving product. A packager may use the end of a conveyor as a packing line for products. In these cases, packing tables may be constructed along the sides of the conveyor to allow for quick and easy access to finished product and a platform to put the product into boxes, cartons or other bulk containers.
The examples given above are only a few ways in which a specific piece of packaging equipment may be modified to meet the unique needs of different companies, even when two or more companies are packaging the same product! This is also the reason that LPS Packaging Specialists discuss projects in depth with each and every packager prior to manufacturing equipment. Though machines can be classified to an extent, it is our belief that each and every piece of equipment leaving for a packager's plant should be custom equipment fitted to the specific needs of that packager.