Starting the Packaging Process - Loading Options
Whether setting up a fully automatic packaging system, a labor driven system or some combination of both, bottles or other containers must be introduced to the line in some manner. From simply hand placing bottles to allowing a machine to unscramble and orient containers on a power conveyor, there are a few popular ways to get the packaging process started that will be seen on a majority of lines.
HAND PLACING BOTTLES OR CONTAINERS
Perhaps the most simple method of starting the packaging process is to have the operator of a system hand place bottles or containers as needed. While this can be done with an automatic system, it will likely take away from the efficiency of the system as a whole since the operator may have a hard time keeping up with the automatic filling, capping and other functions of a completely automatic line. However, items such as a static bottle hopper, which present bottles to the operator can assist in speeding up the process. Instead, hand placing bottles will more often be the method of choice for semi-automatic and tabletop packaging systems. Rather than a power conveyor, these systems will often use a slide track for various machines. Operators, for example, might place four bottles on a slide track of a filling machine, line the bottles up under the fill heads, complete the fill and then move the bottles to the capping machine or some other packaging station. Simple tabletop machines may even require the operator to slide one container at a time into a positioning neck, to be filled or capped before moving it to the next station.
Loading turntables may be put to use on automatic or semi-automatic systems. Generally speaking, an operator simply places bottles onto the turntable top, allowing the turntable to deliver the bottles to a power conveyor which will take them through the various packaging machines. Loading turntables normally include a half moon loading deadplate that will assist in moving individual containers quickly from a box, bag or other package onto the line. The turntable top can also vary in size to accommodate small to large bottles and a bottle guide assembly helps move the containers from the turntable to the conveyor.
LANING CONVEYORS AND DEBAGGERS
Laning conveyors and debagging machines are similar to loading turntables in that they usually allow a table or other space for an operator to unload bottles and containers and quickly get them to the take away power conveyor to start the packaging process. However, these machines normally place containers into rows, with each row being delivered to the power conveyor rather than individual bottles moving from a turntable top to the conveyor. These methods of loading bottles onto a packaging system are also ideal for non-round containers that may have a tendancy to jam when using the turntable delivery system. Just like loading turntables, these methods can be found in use on both automatic and semi-automatic packaging systems.
The bottle unscrambler will most often be seen on completely automatic packaging systems. This machine simply requires the operator of a line to dump bulk bottles into the machine on occasion. The bulk bottles will then be placed upright, and oriented correctly if necessary, onto the power conveyor. These machines can be manufactured to handle a range of containers and are built for systems that require a higher bottles per minute speed. While the unscrambler could be used with a semi-automatic system as well, the other methods mentioned above will normally be sufficient to keep semi-automatic lines running efficiently.
The best manner to use to start bottles off on a packaging line will always depend on the unique packaging system being used, including the level of automation. A high speed line may lose quite a bit of efficiency if an operator has to hand place every bottle. On the other hand, using a fully automatic bottle unscrambler may not be the most economical selection for a semi-automatic system. LPS can assist in choosing not only the best method of loading bottles, but also the best solution for filling, capping, labeling and otherwise preparing your product for consumers.