Moving to an automatic liquid filler after hand-filling or using semi-automatic machinery can seem quite daunting to someone unfamiliar with the equipment. However, the set-up of automatic filling machines is made quite simple by both the design of the machinery and the addition of the simple-to-use, yet powerful, Programmable Logic Controller (PLC).
Before discussing the PLC, there are certain physical characteristics that may need to be changed from bottle to bottle or even on initial set-up of the bottle filler. For those that have used semi-automatic equipment, some of the adjustments will be familiar. For instance, nozzle position may have to be changed from bottle to bottle when more than one bottle size is being filled. In addition, the overall height of the nozzles may also need to be adjusted with different bottle sizes. Nozzles can be moved left or right with simple hand knobs that can quickly or easily be tightened and loosened. The height will either be adjusted with a hand crank or by using a simple switch when power height is available, which is on almost every automatic machine and some semi-automatic.
Other physical changes for automatic machines will possibly include adjusting the indexing system and the conveyor railing for the bottle to be used. A number of different indexing systems can be used on automatic packaging lines, with pin indexing probably being the most popular for NPACK equipment. Changes in bottle sizes may require one of the pins to be relocated to allow all of the bottles for any given cycle to fit in to the fill area. If using screw indexing, the screw itself may need to be switched out for a larger or smaller container size. Conveyor railing may need to be moved in or out to accommodate the width of a bottle, or even up and down on rare occasion to add support for tall or oddly shaped bottles. All of these adjustments, and any unique physical adjustments, will require the simple loosening and retightening of a bolt whenever possible. In other words, the design of the machine will always make these changes as easy to complete as possible.
Semi-automatic machines may also include simple timers that may need to be adjusted to put more, or less, product in to a container. However, this is where the PLC takes over on automatic equipment. Automatic filling machines need not just a simple time for filling, but also indexing times, delay times for fills, pumps, indexing and other machine specific delays and durations. Automatic filling machines may also need to take in to account times for diving fill heads, neck grabbers, drip trays and similar options. All of these times must be synchronized to allow for reliable and repeatable fill cycles with each new set of bottles that enter the fill area. While this can seem like a daunting set-up and changeover procedure, the PLC makes it as simple as a pressing a couple buttons.
At NPACK, we like to test every bottle and product combination that will be run at the packager's facility to ensure that the equipment functions as expected. As long as the packager provides NPACK with sample bottles and sample product, all of the PLC settings mentioned above can be determined by NPACK technicians and saved to the PLC for simple recall! This means that rather than accumulating downtime while setting up different bottles to be run, operators of the automatic filling machine simply need to recall the settings from a Recipe Screen found on the touch screen interface. Once the correct recipe is entered, and all physical adjustments are made, the machine is ready to run production! NPACK staff still trains the operators for performing the long version of a set-up, including the trial and error of finding delay and duration times. This is necessary in the event that new bottles or new products will be used on the line. However, even with new bottles or products, once the setting are found for the first time, a new recipe can be saved to the PLC and recalled at a later date!
To learn more about the time saving features of the PLC on the NPACK automatic filling machines, contact a Packaging Specialist today!