Filling machines will almost always be custom built for the product and project at hand. While there are many factors to take into consideration, and those factors may differ from project to project, there are a few that will usually require some thought for every project. We will take a look at some of the more recurring considerations below.
Some filling machines are simply better equipped to handle thick products or thin products, while others can handle both. A packager must consider the viscosity of the product to be filled to ensure that the filler chosen can handle the task. For instance, an overflow filler may be an ideal choice for a free flowing product such as water. However, that same filling machine may not be the best to handle a thick product like honey. For thicker products, a pump filler or piston filling machine will usually be the better solution. Bottom line, when manufacturing a filling machine, the product viscosity will always be taken into account.
Whatever the viscosity of the product, packagers will also need to decide which principle they will use to fill the containers. Some packagers may use an overflow filler to repeatedly fill each container to the same level, even if interior volume is slightly different in each container. These machines are often a good choice when a product is packaged in a clear, or see-through, container to add shelf appeal. Other products will be filled by volume, perhaps using a piston or gravity filling machine. These products may vary slightly in fill level from container to container, but will include the same volume of liquid in each. A number of other principles also exist and more than one principle may work for any given project. In such cases, other factors of a project may be considered to choose the ideal fill principle.
How many bottles per hour must a packaging project fill to meet production demands? The answer to this question will often help guide the decision of how much automation to include in a filling machine. A packager who only needs to fill a few hundred bottles a week will likely start with a semi-automatic filling machine or perhaps even a tabletop model. Each of these two types allows for upgrades in the future, in the form of additional fill heads, should production demands increase, just like automatic machinery. However, in some cases even packagers with smaller production requirements may look at automatic machinery if quick, significant growth in the production is expected. Packagers must consider not only current demand, but expected growth when choosing an ideal filling machine.
CHANGEOVER & CLEANING
Some machines are simply easier to changeover and clean than others. For packagers that do short runs or many different products, changeover and cleaning time may be an important factor. Certain machines may require disassembly to completely clean the components and prepare the machine for a new product. For many, but not all machines, clean-in-place (CIP) systems can be programmed into the PLC and operator interface to make the cleaning process simple and quick, requiring little to no disassembly and a lot less assistance from labor. Deciding if the CIP is a necessity for a given project may also affect the best solution for a liquid filler.
As noted above, there are many other considerations when choosing the ideal filling machine. NPACK not only manufactures liquid fillers, but our staff are available to work through these different considerations and assist the packager in reaching the best solution for each individual project.