How to Choose a Filling Machine
Whenever someone calls into the factory to inquire about a filling machine, we have a logical but exhaustive process for determining exactly what machine will do the job successfully and over the long term.
1. What products are being filled?
We are looking for specific product characteristics that will narrow down the range of types of filling machines that will work. You can see examples of this on our Industry Solutions page. Sometimes, there is one obvious choice of a machine that can do the job. Oftentimes, there are several types of filling machine can do the job and each machine possibility will be evaluated further as more information is developed. Obviously, Inline Filling Systems’ goal is to specify the most economical choice for the customer but based on many operational considerations.
2. Will the filling machine be automatic or semi automatic or even manual?
The answer to this question obviously depends on the level of production needed by the customer. But each customer has a different idea of how they define their production. Sometimes an experienced customer knows exactly how many bottles per minute (BPM) their machine must reach. Sometimes the customer only knows how many cases a week they need to produce or even how many containers a year they need to produce. From our Filling Machine Selection Guide, you can see that a requirement of less than 2000 containers per day of production means semiautomatic equipment. Ultimately, our sales engineers will want to determine how many containers per day and how many hours per day the customer needs for production in order to size the machine properly in terms of BPM. There have been many instances where a customer believed that they needed a 100 BPM machine at much higher cost only to realize after our analysis that all current and future needs could be met on a 20 BPM semiautomatic machine.
3. What type of pump will be necessary to handle the products?
Because the pump is the heart of the filling machine, expert knowledge on this subject is vital to choosing the right filling machine. Considerations are not just capacity calculations but also compatibility issues such as what will the pump do to that product or what will that product do to the pump! Understanding of how the customer’s fluid products behave under pressure and whether or not their characteristics change when pumped can be vital. Velocity, suction height, backpressure, accuracy, temperature, particle size, foam generation, sanitation needs and chemical compatibility are just a few the pump selection process criteria that need to be compared with the customer product. If Inline Filling Systems does not already possess this knowledge in house, we will either test the products on our own lab units or send the products to the pump manufacturers for empirical testing.
4. What are the fluid path considerations?
As the product moves though filler, hosing material , fluid connection types, and seal materials must be appropriately specified for chemical and temperature compatibility as well as cleanability and sanitary requirements. Sometimes even specialty heated fluid paths are necessary to maintain fill temperatures.
5. What are the nozzle characteristics required for the job?
Both the physical characteristics of the container and handling requirements of the liquid product will determine optimal nozzle sizes and types as well as whether or not diving or subsurface filling is necessary. Container characteristics such as bottle opening size, container height and shape will determine the nozzle types needed. Note that in many cases, the container shape may be the primary determinant for what type of filling machine must be used. Nozzle types, nozzle lengths, nozzle opening sizes, nozzle seal materials, nozzle shutoff styles, port angles, bottle handling and profile requirements and many other custom engineering considerations are evaluated. Typically, one size or type of nozzle will simply not handle the customer’s range of products and a nozzle strategy may be specified for each product.
6. What are the plant environment and operations considerations?
Filling machines installed in plants filling explosive or corrosive chemicals must meet insurance, local safety and electrical requirements. Filling machines installed in sanitary plant locations are constantly wetted and washed down and must be sealed appropriately as well as use washdown rated components. The nature or sophistication level of plant personnel at that location may dictate what type of operating system or filling technology in general would be best suited to that company. The design and choice of the type of control system on a filling system are strongly influenced by plant environment. This is important because the type of controls on a filler are a major cost consideration.
In conclusion, although the lay person can get an excellent idea of what filling machine they should be buying from this website, it is clear that the specification process must be left to an applications engineer with many years of experience. Application mistakes are made constantly by new comers in this custom industry. Inline Filling Systems’ 20 years of diligence and continuous improvement has made us one of the lowest risk candidates in the industry.