Packaging Smaller Containers - Challenges and Solutions

Packaging machinery and systems for small containers can present unique challenges for businesses and manufacturers. From bottle stability to accurate and consistent fills, some modifications or even custom manufacturing may be necessary to find the best packaging solution for vials, tubes and small bottles.

Bottle Movement

While smaller containers vary in shape and type, vials and tubes are common when dealing with containers for a minute amount of liquid. The rounded bottom of vials and tubes makes stability an issue, as these types of containers are simply not made to move steadily down a conveyor system. The solution, when using an inline system, is to incorporate pucks in to the packaging line. Each vial or tube will be placed in to a flat bottom puck, which can then travel down a power conveyor system to be rinsed, filled, capped or otherwise packaged and prepared.

A second solution comes in the form of a monoblock packaging system. These machines will include a slotted starwheel, with the slots keeping the tubes and vials steady. As the starwheel turns, it delivers the container to different packaging stations. Rinsing, filling, capping and other processes will all be done at different points on the starwheel, rather than sending the containers down a power conveyor to reach different machinery. While other, custom solutions may be used for different projects, pucks and starwheels are the typical solutions for transferring small containers.

Filling Small Containers

Generally speaking, all of the fill principles available to larger bottle sizes are also available to fill small containers, level fills, volumetric fills and more. The challenge can again stem from bottle stability. Accessories or options such as neck grabbers may be used when containers provide a small opening and placement under the nozzles must be highly accurate. The neck grabbers ensure that vials, tubes and other small containers are properly positioned with each cycle to receive the liquid. Depending on the product, different methods of filling, different nozzles or even a unique pump may be used to ensure accuracy and efficiency in dispensing small amounts of product.

Capping and Labeling Small Containers

The type of capping machine used for sealing small containers will depend on the type of closure used on any given project. As a general rule, capping machines can run a range of closures, so whether a threaded cap, snap on cap, corker or stopper, the capping machinery can usually be manufactured to handle the smaller caps. However, some adjustment or modification may be necessary when a large range of closures are used on one project.  Smaller containers offer a smaller space for the application of a label. Standard labeling machines exist specifically for labeling small bottles and containers. The specific labeler for any application will depend on how and where the label is applied.

Whether using an inline system or a monoblock packaging system, small containers will often require unique solutions to ensure reliable and consistent movement, filling, capping and other processes. To discuss your small container application with a Packaging Specialist at Liquid Packaging Solutions, contact the office or use the quick connect form found on the LPS website.