The First Phase of a Packaging System - Loading

The First Phase of a Packaging System - Loading

A automated packaging system can be broken down into a number of different phases, each of which plays a crucial part in taking product from the supply tank to the consumer or end user.  Over the next several weeks we will take a closer look at each of these phases individually to better understand the considerations in designing or planning a packaging system.  Before using a filler, capping machine, labeler or any other packaging machine, bottles or containers must be loaded on to the packaging line.  The first phase of a packaging system, loading containers, can be achieved in a number of different manners.

Loading containers to a packaging system can be as simple as dumping bulk containers into a bottle unscrambler.  Once a bottle unscrambler receives the containers, it will orient the bottle and present it to the belt conveyor system to be moved through the packaging system.  The bottle unscrambler saves time by accepting bulk containers, thus requiring only occasional loading which frees up the operator for other tasks. These packaging machines handle a wide range of container types and sizes and ensure that each individual bottle is standing correctly on the conveyor for the rinser, filling machine or other packaging equipment.

Other machines used in the loading phase of a packaging system require a little more manual labor than the unscrambler.  Turntables, bottle debaggers and loading or indexing conveyors can all be used to prepare and load bottles to the system conveyor.  Loading turntables allow an operator of a packaging system to simply place bottles on the turntable top.  A bottle guide then directs the containers to the outside of the top, eventually moving containers off the turntable and onto the system conveyor. Turntables may be manufactured with a loading deadplate to make placement on the turntable top more efficient.  

Bottle debaggers are often used in the dairy industry and for other large containers that arrive in separately wrapped tiers.  The tier is placed, still in its wrap, on the debagger, where a knife will slit the bag, allowing it to easily be removed from the tier of containers.  Bottles can then be shuttled to the system conveyor to be sent down the packaging line.  

Indexing conveyors will include a loading plate or table where bottles will first be loaded.  Operators will then use several lanes on the indexing conveyor to create rows of bottles for filling, capping, labeling and otherwise packaging.  Once lined up, a rodless air cylinder will normally deliver one row of containers at a time to the packaging system conveyor.

Finally, some packaging systems may simply require the manual placement of individual containers onto the packaging system conveyor.  Bottle hoppers or bins can assist in this type of bottle placement.  Static bottle hoppers may be placed at the beginning of the packaging system, or even above the conveyor system, to assist in the efficient placement of bottles.  A bin may allow storage of bulk bottles or containers near the conveyor as well, making the placement of bottles a little easier.

While there are most certainly other methods for starting up an automated packaging system by getting bottles loaded onto the system, those described above probably represent the most common techniques used.  Custom packaging machinery to load bottles can always be designed for unique containers or packaging systems. When planning your packaging system, keep in mind that the loading method used will effect the labor necessary for, as well as the speed of, your packaging system.  Hand placement of containers will require one or more manual laborers to load bottles.  In addition, your packaging system as a whole will only run as fast as the slowest component.  Filling machines cannot fill, capping machines cannot cap and labeling machines cannot label if the bottles are simply not present on the conveyor system.   

Now that the bottles are loaded to the packaging system, we must consider how they will be transferred from one packaging machine or phase to the next.  Check back soon for the second phase of a packaging system - bottle transfer.