Capping machinery can not only be manufactured for a number of different closure styles, but can also be manufactured in several different levels of automation. From simple hand held equipment to tabletop and full-frame semi-automatic machines to completely automated cappers, one question that often arises is machine speed. In other words, how many bottles per minute can be sealed by the bottle capper in question.
While the question of speed is of course a legitimate concern with capping equipment, or almost any packaging equipment, the answer is not always as easy as throwing out a number. For instance, a simple hand held chuck capper may be capable of sealing almost sixty bottles per minute, but that number will rarely, if ever, be achieved. In many cases, the hand held capping machine will not even be purchased for speed, but instead for the consistency and reliability of the seal. The actual number of bottles or containers sealed will depend on how quickly the operator using the equipment can work. The closure will first have to be placed onto the bottle, then the hand held machine will be used to tighten the lid. The process may include unloading bottles, unloading caps and even transferring sealed bottles to a new location. In the end, the bottles capped per minute can range from a few to twenty, thirty or forty, and will likely change as the operator changes.
For the most part, tabletop capping machines will work in the same way that the hand held machines work. Operators must first place a cap on the bottle. However, the bottle will then typically be placed into a V-slot or other positioning neck to allow the capper to complete the seal. While these machines remove the need to grab the capping tool and hand place it, the speed of the equipment will once again depend on the operator of the machine and the actual packaging process (unloading bottles and caps, transferring the sealed container).
Full-frame semi-automatic capping machines can work in a number of different ways, depending on the capping principle put into use. These semi-automatic machines may use a slide track or even a power conveyor to move containers through the capping area. As an example, a semi-automatic spindle capper may simply require an operator to place a cap on the container, then place the container on the power conveyor, allowing the machine to do the rest. While these machines will almost always add speed versus hand held and tabletop versions, the use of an operator still leaves the actual bottles per minute dependant on the manual labor and the entire packaging process.
Finally, completely automatic capping machines remove the operator from the process, other than supplying bulk caps from time to time. The removal of manual labor allows for a more accurate estimate of the number of containers the machine can handle per minute. However, will completely automatic packaging systems, the bottles per minute sealed by the capping equipment will also depend on the other equipment on the line. While a manufacturer may tell boast that a capper can handle one hundred bottles per minute, this means little when the filling machine output is limited to fifty bottles per minute. In other words, the most important number when dealing with complete automation will be the machine with the lowest bottles per minute capacity, which is not usually the capping equipment. That being said, a packager should always ensure that the output for bottle cappers will allow the machine to keep up with the process as a whole while also allowing for growth and upgrades in the future.
If you have questions about bottles per minute, or capping machinery in general, feel free to take advantage of the knowledge and experience of the Packaging Specialists at NPACK!