Once product is in the bottle or other container, the next packaging phase will usually be capping or otherwise sealing the containers. The capping and sealing process obviously keeps liquids from splashing and spilling, but also serves to protect the product itself from rapid breakdown while also offering the consumer different levels of tamper evidence and security in knowing the purchased product is safe. As with any machine, an analysis of several different factors should be completed to ensure that the best machinery for the project is identified.
1. Type of Closures?
The first step is an obvious one, look at the type of closure or closures that are being used for the project. Different capping machines are necessary for different closures, so that the analysis of the best machine cannot start without knowing what closures will be used. From screw-on to snap-on, ROPP, corks and more, machines exist to consistently and continuously provide a seal or closure. In some cases, variations of the same closure type may be used, such as flat screw-on caps and sports-style screw-on caps. Typically a packager will use the same type of closure on all products simply because to do otherwise would require multiple capping machines. There are some exceptions, such as a spindle and snap capper or custom capping machinery, but using a variety of different closure types is rare. Identifying the type of cap or closure to be used then, will significantly narrow the search for the best capping solution.
2. Closure Shapes and Sizes?
Automatic capping machines are termed automatic in part because the caps are presented to the bottles via a cap delivery system. In some cases this allows for continuous capping right on the conveyor. The sizes and shapes of the caps or other closures used becomes important to ensure that the delivery system on automatic machinery can accommodate and consistently deliver the closures for all of the different sizes and shapes run. This factor is less important on semi-automatic bottle cappers where the operator of the equipment will usually be hand placing closures on the bottle.
3. Bottle Shapes and Sizes?
Similarly, a packager must consider all bottle shapes and sizes when choosing a capping machine. From a design standpoint, the machine must be able to accommodate both the smallest and the tallest bottle, while also handling narrow and wide containers as well. Knowing the range of bottle shapes and sizes will again be more of a factor when dealing with automatic cappers, in ensuring that all bottles can be run without excessive downtime for changeover, be it parts of simple adjustments. Automatic capping machines can handle a wide range of container types and sizes, but knowing the range before the machine is designed will prevent any unwanted surprises once the bottle capper is running production.
4. Speed Necessary to Meet Demand?
How many bottles must be capped to meet production demand? Answering this question will help to identify the amount of automation necessary for the project. Capping machines are built to work as simple handheld or tabletop equipment. They are also manufactured to roll up to an existing conveyor and cap bottles continuously. In between the simple and the continuous, there are many different options. Many capping machines are upgradeable, though the upgrades may not be as simple as with a liquid filler, where in many cases extra heads can be added to increase production, so packagers should always also consider future growth when choosing a capper to ensure the equipment is not quickly outgrown.
5. Additional Sealing Components?
While some packagers simply screw or snap on a cap before sending product to the shelf, many also use additional sealing techniques to provide tamper evidence or simply to make the product more attractive. Other equipment may be necessary and work with the capping machine to create the entire seal. A few examples would include neck banding machinery, capsule spinning equipment, an induction sealer or even a simple top band label. These additional components should be identified and analyzed to understand how they will work together to form the complete seal. For example, a capping machine that runs 80 bottles per minute loses significant value and efficiency if coupled with a handheld induction sealer that produces 10 to 15 seals per minute. Analyzing the entire sealing process ensure that the solution includes machines that complement one another and the entire packaging process.
6. Space Available for Machinery?
Finally, line layouts or site visits with machinery manufacturers are always a good idea when choosing any packaging equipment. Line layouts will show packagers exactly how much space is necessary to place and run the desired equipment. Of course, this analysis does not need to be performed last, but it is an analysis that needs to take place somewhere during the process. Simple capping machines can take up very little space, sometimes included on the frame of another machine, such as the liquid filler. Automatic machines, using a conveyor to move bottles in and out of the capping area, may require a much larger space. Being aware of space restriction will again narrow the search for the best capping machine for any project.
Representatives at NPACK are always available to assist in analyzing a project to choose the best capping machinery. For more information on any of the capping machines manufactured by NPACK, or to discuss custom solutions, simply contact the NPACK offices today.