Running Multiple Containers and Products on an Automatic Filling Machine – Recipe Screens

Changeover and set-up times can be a major concern for packagers that run a variety of packages, products or combinations of both. Multiple changeovers in a production day means multiple periods of downtime for the packaging process. In these cases, limiting the changeover and set-up times can be likened to an auto race pit stop. The quicker the job gets done, the more product that can be produced in a given day. On automatic filling machines, there is arguably no feature that saves as much time as the recipe screen found on the operator interface of almost every automatic liquid filler manufactured by NPACK.

To understand how the recipe screen saves time, let's first look at a quick example of setting up a bottle and product for a production run. First, automatic filling machines use indexing systems to correctly place bottles under the fill heads for each fill cycle. For example, to set up pin indexing, an operator must place bottles on the power conveyor and calculate the time it takes for the bottles to move from the entry gate to the exit gate, so that each gate works correctly to allow bottles to enter and leave the fill area, respectively. If done manually, through trial and error, this could be a long and tedious set-up tactic. However, the operator interface allows the operator to acquire the time by lining up bottles and pressing a button. Still, each time a new bottle is introduced, or even a previous bottle, the operator would need to line up bottles and go through this process, if not for the recipe screen, which we are almost ready to explain.

However, not only must indexing times be set, but the parameters for filling the bottles must also be set. This means each time a different bottle is run, fill times, head dive times, pump durations and various other settings must be entered into the system or found through trial and error. This process can eat up hours of time if a company runs several different bottle and product combinations each day! Finding the correct height or volume, sometimes for each individual nozzle, can take several attempts to reach the perfect fill. A recipe screen allows this set up to take place once, with the results being easily recalled each time the bottle and product are run in the future.

So how does the recipe screen work? Quite simply, the PLC on the automatic bottle filler records all of the different settings when the initial set up is completed. To make things even easier, the initial set up will be completed at the factory by NPACK when bottles and product are supplied to the company during the manufacturing phase of the project. So when the filling machine reaches the packager, the recipes for each combination will already be stored in the PLC. On the touchscreen operator interface, a recipe screen exists along with other operation related screens. The operator simply pulls up the recipe screen and enters the number corresponding to the bottle and product combination to be run and all setting are recalled to allow production to begin almost immediately. A simple recipe screen on the automatic filling machine, therefore, has the potential to replace literally hours of changeover time for companies with varying products and bottles.

To learn more about recipe screens or bottle fillers from NPACK in general, feel free to browse the Filling Machinery section of the website or call the NPACK offices to speak with a Packaging Specialist.