Machine Screens - Operating the Liquid Filler
For anyone who has browsed our website or read through our posts about automatic liquid filling machines, it quickly becomes obvious that one of the advantages we like to point out at NPACK is the ease of operation. But speaking in general terms, PLC and touchscreen operator interface may not mean a whole lot to someone who has never used an automatic bottle filler. So today we will look at the typical screens found on the operator interface of the automatic machines and explain the ease of operation in a little more detail. Take note that while all of the screens up to the Recipe Screen include times and settings that may seem somewhat complex, the recipe screen simplifies everything!
The Main Screen of the Operator Interface will display the total production run by the machine and includes controls for several main functions or components of the equipment, such as the conveyor and the fill heads, allowing the operator to quickly turn these components on and off. In addition, the Main Screen acts as the road map on the interface, allowing access to all of the other necessary screens to set up and run the machine.
The Manual Toggle Screen will be used during set up, maintenance and troubleshooting of the liquid filler. This screen allows the operator to control different components of the machine when it is not running production. For example, the operator can turn the conveyor on or off from this screen, or open and close indexing gates as needed. Again, this screen will not have an effect on production runs (unless one of the settings is accidentally left in a non-auto position), it will be used to control components when setting up or maintaining the machine.
FILLER SET UP
The Filler Set-Up screen will allow the operator to turn specific components on and off for automatic production runs, as well as choose certain feature types. For example, if a filling machine uses a drip tray, the operator can use this screen to turn the drip tray on or off during automatic production runs. This screen will also allow the operator to choose the indexing type to be used, if more than one type exists on the machine, the operator must choose between indexing, star wheel or any other available options.
The Adjust Pre-Sets Screen will allow the operator to enter all delay and duration times that make up the fill cycle on any given automatic bottle filler. These times will include, for example, duration times for indexing gates, delay times for the heads to begin filling (to ensure bottles are in place and stabilized) and duration times for any pumps that may exist on the machine, as well as others. The Pre-Sets screen will include different settings depending on the fill principle being used on the machine. In addition, these screens will include bottle counts, ensuring the correct number of bottles reach the fill area before the fill cycle begins.
ADJUST FILL HEADS
The Adjust Fill Heads screen simply allows for the manual adjustment of fill times. The control of the fill times may vary based on the fill principle. In general terms, the screen will normally allow fill times to be adjusted for individual fill heads, while also including an all fill heads control that will allow a single change to effect every fill head on the machine.
The Auto-Set Up Screen will be used to quickly and easily find indexing times for different bottles. The operator can simply line up bottles on the power conveyor and press a button to find the correct indexing times, which will then be recorded in the Adjust Pre-Sets Screen. On some models, the same type of automatic set up can be done for fill times as well.
The Recipe Screen is the screen that simplifies everything. Once all of the components have been set up a single time in the above mentioned screens, they can all be recorded as a recipe (note: this is often done at the factory when product and bottle samples are supplied!). Once the recipe is recorded, all that is required of the operator is to enter the correct recipe in the touch screen box and all settings are recalled for any product and bottle combination. If samples are supplied, the machine will be set up at the factory before it reaches the production floor. Even if new bottle and product combinations are introduced at a later date, the set-up process will only need to be performed on a single occasion. Once performed, the recipe screen can be pulled up and a new recipe can be saved, to once again be recalled at a later date. It is the recipe screen that generally allows set up at the push of a few buttons on automatic filling machines.
The Alarm Screen simply assists with troubleshooting. This screen will give guidance should an issue occur with the filling machine through codes and flashing messages. The Alarm Screen must be cleared when an issue arises to begin running automatic production once again.
CLEAN IN PLACE
The Clean-In-Place, or CIP Screen, allows the operator to set up cleaning cycles upon completion of a production run. While not all automatic liquid fillers will feature the CIP screen, it allows for quick and easy cleaning of the product pathway. When the screen is a part of the operator interface, it generally allows times to be set for cleaning cycles as well as fill head open duration to allow the cleaning product to run through the product pathway.
So while the set up and adjustments can seem daunting at first glance, keep in mind that the operator interface includes screens that allow the machinery to be easily controlled. As noted above, the ability to save and recall recipes for product and bottle combinations means the actual set up of those combinations needs to be performed on only one occasion. Furthermore, these recipes are often saved by the manufacturer when adequate samples are provided. In addition, very few automatic machines begin production at the packagers facility before training by an NPACK packaging specialist, ensuring that production runs smoothly for current and future product and bottle combinations.