The process for setting times on filling machines will differ depending on the type of filler that is being used on any given project. In some cases, when filling by volume, some trial and error will be necessary to ensure the accuracy of the machine. With some projects, each fill head will be adjusted individually to increase the accuracy. For companies with multiple products and multiple bottle sizes, the process may appear to be both tedious and time-consuming. However, the addition of recipe screens to control panel will save an abundance of time for the operators of the machinery. Below we will take a look at two of the most common methods of filling and explain how the recipe screens help with set up and changeover.
FILL TO LEVEL SYSTEMS
Fill to level machines do just that, fill each bottle to a level regardless of small irregularities in the internal volume of the bottles. These machines work well for just about any product that is packaged using a clear bottle or container, adding aesthetic value to the product once it hits the shelf. Using an overflow filler to fill to a level with each cycle means that a range of fill times will result in the same fill level. This is true because any liquid entering the bottle above the desired fill level is recirculated, or "overflowed" back into the holding tank. However, in the interest of efficiency, the operator will want to trim those fill times as much as possible. In other words, if a bottle takes six seconds to fill, the same exact fill can be created by setting the timers to twenty seconds, but this will obviously eat into the productivity of the packaging line as a whole. So finding the quickest time that achieves consistent, level fills in each bottle is the end goal with an overflow, or fill to level, filling machine. This may require several test cycles before actual production runs, slowly taking down the fill times until failure, then adding just enough time to achieve the desired results.
VOLUMETRIC FILLING SYSTEMS
Volumetric filling systems, such as gravity fillers, pump fillers or piston fillers, may not always fill containers to the same level, but they will ensure that almost the same amount of product is dispensed into each bottle or other container. Unlike the overflow filler, adding too much time to a volumetric filler will cause product to run out of the bottle, creating a mess for the operators. Too little time the bottles will not contain the desired volume. So the volumetric fillers can take a little more fine tuning to create consistent, accurate fills with each cycle. In addition, as mentioned above, some fillers will require fine tuning each fill head individually to achieve the correct volume. Test cycles can be run, and volume can be checked, but again this process can be both tedious and time-consuming to achieve the necessary accuracy.
Imagine having to set times and check for accurate volume each time a new product or bottle was introduced. This is simply not an efficient process, especially for those companies with high production and/or numerous short runs. For this reason, recipe screens are included on automated filling machines. The recipe screen allows the operator to find the correct times for any product and container combination a single time, then save those settings for recall at a later date! So rather than running multiple test cycles and fine tuning the fill, after the initial set up, all of the relevant times can be pulled up with the touch of a couple of buttons. This is true for both fill to level systems and volumetric fillers. The save and recall on the recipe screens simply means more time running production and less time setting up the machine.
In addition, the recipes will often arrive at the packagers plant already in the PLC! This is one of many reasons that NPACK requests samples of product and bottles from our customers whenever possible. At other times, NPACK technicians will complete the fill time settings during installation and training, leaving the operators of the machinery to simply recall the proper recipe, unless or until a new bottle or product is added to the project. Even in these cases, NPACK will always be available to help with the set up of the new combinations of products and containers.
To learn more about recipe screens, filling machines or any of the other equipment manufactured by NPACK, feel free to contact a packaging specialist or browse the different equipment on our website.