Understanding the Operator Interface of an Automatic Filling Machine

Understanding the Operator Interface of an Automatic Filling Machine

Though automatic fillers run, well, automatically, there is still a human element to their performance.  The human element is basically two fold.  First the filling machine must be properly set up on the production floor.  This requires leveling the machine, physically placing the indexing system and fill heads and properly setting the sensors as necessary.  The second step involves the setting of delay and duration times for fills and indexing as well as enabling certain functions of the liquid filler.  For this part, the operator of an automatic filling machine will use the interface normally found on the filler control box.
The operator interface will usually consist of several screens that allow the operator to set up the machine to run production on the specific container and product being used.  Though some variation will take place, the screens normally found on the interface include:


The main screen of the automatic filler operator interface shows the total production run on the machine and other general information.  This screen will also include on/off buttons for the fill cycle - which functions as a type of on/off button for the machine - as well as other components such as the filler conveyor, pumps, product supply and other main features of the packaging machine.  Finally, all other set up and control menus, described below, can be accessed from the main screen.


The manual toggle screen allows the operator of the automatic filling machine to manually control certain features of the filler.  This screen will not be used while the equipment is running production, but rather to assist in the set-up, change-over and troubleshooting of the machine.  For instance, the drip tray can be extended or retracted manually or diving heads can be placed in a down position during set-up.  All functioning features must be set to Auto in the manual toggle screen to ensure proper performance during automatic production.


The filler set up screen generally allows the operator to choose which features to turn on during automatic production runs.  The drip tray, head dive and dive limits are a few of the settings normally found under this screen.  The proper type of indexing must also be chosen on the set up screen to ensure that the bottle filler properly moves containers in and out of the fill area. 


The automatic filler settings under the adjust pre-sets screen allow the filling machine to perform both consistently and reliably.  These settings will include delay and duration times for indexing pins, ensuring that the pins do not open or close too quickly to crush bottles or pause too long to allow empty bottles to escape.  Other delay times can be set to a fraction of a second to avoid spills, bottle tipping, crashing heads and other unwanted issues.  The adjust pre-sets screen can be likened to fine tuning the machine to optimize performance.


The adjust fill times screen is pretty self explanatory.  This screen allows the operator to set the fill times in various ways depending on the type of filling machine being used.  Pumps may be turned on or off for a certain time and for a certain speed, or nozzles may simply be opened for a pre-set amount of time.  The operator can usually adjust each fill head individually or all fill heads at once while on this screen.


Some people may think that running through the filler set up screen, the adjust pre-sets screen and the adjust fill times screen each time that a bottle is being readied for automatic production may seem like a tedious and time consuming activity.  Those people would be correct, which is why automatic filling machines will almost always include a recipe screen.  Once all the settings have been entered for a bottle and product combination, the settings can be saved to the filler PLC, for easy recall in the future!  On top of this, when bottles and product are provided to the packaging machine manufacturer, the recipes will normally be saved to the filler before it ever reaches the production floor.  However, operators should be trained in setting up a new bottle as well as saving and recalling recipes in the event that a new bottle or product is introduced in the future.  The bottom line, however, is that the set up process should never have to be completed more than once when a recipe screen is available.  


Finally, an alarm screen will be included on most bottle fillers for both safety and assistance in troubleshooting.  When the filling machine experiences an issue, the alarm screen can be used to help identify the where and the what of that issue.  If the E-stop is used for any reason, it will also be reflected in the filler alarm screen.  All alarms will need to be cleared on the automatic filler before production can begin again.
The above screens and screen names may change or vary slightly based on the type of filling machine used and the unique needs of the packaging or filling project.  For questions about the operator interface, contact a Packaging Specialist at Liquid Packaging Solutions directly at 1-888-393-3693.