Filling Equipment and Machinery
There are many types of filling machines used to package the variety of products in today's marketplace including liquids, pastes, chunky products, powders, granules, tablets, capsules, etc. Most filling machines are available from semi-automatic tabletop versions all the way up to high speed production line machines, including rotary fillers. Even within categories of filling machines there are often many choices available, so we always encourage you to call or email us to make sure you are buying the exactly correct machine for your application(s).
Liquid Filling Machines
There are a number of liquid filling machines on the market today including pressure fillers, piston fillers, pump filling, siphon, and timed fill gravity systems. Pretty much all of them are available as semi-automatic benchtop machines or as inline and rotary machines for higher productions speeds. All liquid filling systems fall into either of two categories: volumetric or liquid level filling machines.
Volumetric Filling Machine vs. Liquid Level Fillers
There are very few bottles that don't have some small differences in volume. Considering that fact is very important in deciding the type of filling system you are going to use for your packaging. You've probably noticed at the supermarket or auto store that when you look at fill level, some of the bottles seem to look like they are short fills compared to others. Chances are they were filled with a volumetric filler. The volume inside the bottle is correct, but because of the small volumetric difference between the bottles it appears to be short.
With a liquid level filling machine all of the bottles will "appear" to have the same volume because the fill level will be the same, but in actuality there will be slight differences in fill volume, no short fills, but some slight overfills.
And so this is the decision you have to make beforehand: Volumetric or Liquid Level? For the vast majority of products the answer will be liquid level filling since it is cheaper and faster than volumetric filling, plus consumers of the product will not feel cheated when the bottles "appear" to be evenly filled. However volumetric filling is the best solution if the product has to have an exact dosage for it's use or if the product is very expensive per ounce and the little bit of giveaway could cost you dearly, especially in a high production environment.
Liquid Level Filling Machines
Siphon Filling Machine
The simplest and probably one of the oldest technologies devised by man was the siphon principle. In this case we are talking about the siphon filling machine. Gravity flow into the tank to a valve that keeps the liquid level even, put some gooseneck valves up and over the tank side and back below the liquid level of the tank, start a siphon and voila, you've got a siphon filler. Add to that a little extra framing, and an adjustable bottle rest so you can set the fill level to the level of the tank and we now have a complete filling system that will never overfill a bottle, with no need for pumps etc. Our siphon filler comes with 5 heads (size is selectable) and can produce quite a bit more than many think possible.
Overflow Pressure Filler
Overflow Pressure Filling Machine
In order to speed up the process of filling we have the pressure filling machine. Pressure fillers have a tank on the back of the machine with a valve to keep the tank full either by a simple float valve or by switching a pump on and off. The tank flood feeds a pump which then feeds to a manifold where a number of special overflow filling heads lower down into the bottle as the pump switches on forcing liquid into the bottles at a speedy rate. As the bottle fills to the top, and excess liquid goes back up a second port within the filling head and overflows back into the tank. At that point the pump switches off and any remaining excess liquid and pressure is relieved. Heads come up, bottles index out and repeat the process. Pressure fillers can be configured for semi-automatic, automatic inline filling systems or as rotary pressure fillers for higher speeds.
Volumetric Filling Machines
Check Valve Piston Filler
Check valve piston filling machines use a check valve system that opens and closes on the infeed stroke and discharge stroke. A great feature of this type of filler is that it can self prime to draw product directly from a drum or pail and then discharge into your container. Typical accuracy on a piston filler is plus or minus one-half percent. However check valve piston fillers do have certain limitations in that they cannot run viscous products or products with particulates as both can foul the valves. But if your products are free flowing (meaning they pour relatively easily) this is a great machine for startups and large producers as well.
Rotary Valve Piston Filling Machine
Rotary valve piston fillers are distinguished by the rotary valve which has a large throat opening to allow thick products and products with large particulates (up to 1/2" diameter) from the supply hopper to flow through unimpeded. Great as a tabletop model or can be ganged for higher production requirements. Fill pastes, peanut butter, gear oil, potato salads, italian dressing and much more on this type of piston filler with accuracy of plus or minus one-half percent. Fills accurately at a ten to one ratio of the cylinder set.
Pump Filling Machines
Pump fillers are another method of filling products ranging from liquids to thick pastes, even those with solid particulates (although generally much smaller than on a Rotary Valve Piston Filler). Available as tabletop models through multi-head ganged automatic machines. Another advantage of using a positive displacement pump filler is that the range of fill volumes is much greater than on a piston filler, albeit that the fill times increase significantly the larger the fill volume required. Other great features of a pump filling machine include easy fill adjustment by entering the amount needed, and a self priming feature similar to a check valve piston filler's ability to draw product directly from a drum or other container. For thicker products a supply hopper can be added similar to a rotary valve piston filler so that product flood feeds directly into the pump. Fill volumes are determined by counting revolutions (and partial revolutions) of the pump.
Peristaltic Pump Fillers
Peristaltic pump filling machines are very popular in the pharmacuetical and hazardous chemical industries because product does not have any external environment exposure since the hose goes directly from the product supply, through the pump (as opposed to into the pump), and to the dispense point. When the product run is complete the hose can be disposed of, or treated for reuse. Furthermore with some pumps extreme accuracy is possible down to the 1 ul (microliter) level.
Timed Fill Gravity Systems
Timed flow fillers are another type of filler on the market. This type of filler works on the principle of a tank mounted above filling heads that have solenoid valves to open and close for the flow, or in some cases pinching of the hose to close. Fill volume is determined by timers that open and close the valves or pinch the tubes. Single head models can work pretty well for a variety of products. Even multi-head models can work pretty well once the system is balanced if only one formulation is run or the flow characteristics are identical. However the big disadvantage of timed fill systems is when the user wishes to fill a variety of products with different flow characteristics. In this case the system needs to be rebalanced which is not an easy task as every adjustment of for one head's flow affects all of the others. Busch Machinery does not offer timed fill systems for this reason, as other machinery that we offer can offer the same or better accuracy, at about the same cost, and without the hassle associated with timed fill systems.
Powder and Granule Filling Systems
As with liquid fillers there are two types of filling systems for powders and granules, net weight and volumetric. Net weight fillers are exactly what is implied by the name, product that is weighed before it is dispensed into the container. There are two types of volumetric fillers: auger and pocket. The choice of the proper machine depends on a number of factors such as consistency of the product, flow characteristics, production speeds required, and cost of the product. Net weight powder fillers tend to have about fifty percent of the speed capability of auger or cup fillers. So if the product is free flowing and consistent, say like rice, a volumetric filler might be the best choice. However if the product is inconsistent, like shrimp, a net weight filling array would be much more accurate, while maintaining the quality of the shrimp. Choosing the correct filler therefore is not as easy as one would imagine, as all of these factors must be weighed (pardon the pun). Call Busch Machinery at 800-840-9573 (USA) or 520-777-3360 (Intl) and let's discuss your project to make sure you get the right solution.
Net Weight Powder Fillers
Tabeltop Net Weight Filler
Net weight filling machines operate on a very basic level. Powder or granules are loaded into the hopper over a vibrating tray that moves product to the weigh scale that is located on a load cell. At the start of the cycle the tray moves the product at a high rate of speed, but as the weight in the scale increases near the final target weight the tray vibration is slowed to a dribble until the final weight is reached at which point the vibration is halted. The scale has a gated trap door that releases the product down a funnel and into the container. Immediately upon reclosure of the gate another cycle is commenced. Net weight fillers are very accurate down to in some instances +/- 1/10th of a gram. Net weight fillers are available as semi-automatic or automatic. Multiple heads can be arrayed in a number of ways. One way is in-line up to 4 heads. Another even more popular system is arranged in a circle with a common dump funnel. This way greater speeds can be achieved or as in the shrimp example half of the scales can be set to slightly under, and the other half for exactly half. The system then scans to see which of the two scales has the most accurate total weight when combined. This helps cut down on overage loss.
Volumetric Fillers for Powders and Granules
Auger Filling Machine for powders
Auger Filling Machine
Auger fillers are a great solution for filling powders and granules that have good consistency and flow characteristics. Since it is a much more closed system than a net weight filler it also is the best choice for fine powders like talcum powder or flour that can easily spread through the air. Another advantage of an auger filling machine is that they are much faster than a single head net weight filler, sometimes more than 2 - 3 times faster. They are easy to clean, can be fitted with a variety of auger sizes to meet the demands of your product array and can fill a wider range of weights than the typical net weight filler.
Pocket Filling System
If your product fill range is fairly tight in terms of volume, then a pocket filling machine could be the easiest and lowest priced option. A pocket filler consists of a top disc with pockets mounted to the bottom of the disk and which rides on a second non rotating disk with a discharge located 180 degrees (typical) from the hopper located above the top disk. When the pocket moves under the hopper product flows in and gets wiped down. As the pocket continues its rotation the product dumps down the filling funnel. It really does not get much easier. The biggest drawback to a pocket filling machine is that the range of adjustment is a little less than fifty percent, so it is only suitable if there is only one product to be run or the range is less than 50% by volume.
Tablet Counters - Tablets, Capsules, and Gelcaps
Not all products can be weighed, filled to a level or measured volumetrically. Tablet counters are a type of filling machine that actually counts the number of parts before dispensing into a container. There are basically three types of counters on the market today: rotary table tablet counters, slat counters (which we do not sell) and a sort of combination machine known as a multi-lane tablet counter.
Rotary Table Tablet Counter
Rotary Disk Tablet Counter
Rotary table counting machines are available as semi-automatic or automatic tablet counters. The basic method by which a rotary table tablet counter works is that product is loaded into a hopper and the tablets are fed via a vibrator onto a rotary disk (generally made of glass). Once on the disk, guidrails and wipers are used to line up the tablets or capsules in a single line to the outer edge of the disk. The tablets or pills are then discharged off the edge of the disk where a high speed counting eye actually counts the soft gels as they fall. Just below this eye are solenoid activated diverters that switch the moment a count is reached and accumulates the next batch of tablets in a holding area until another bottle is present at which time the tablets are released into the bottle and any remaining count goes directly into the bottle until count is reaches and the diverter switches over to the opposite holding area. The big advantage of this type of tablet filling machine is that it is very easy to change over to a number of different tablets, capsules, and soft gels and are relatively lower priced. The big disadvantage is that they are not particularly fast if you need high production rates, although three machines can be arrayed together to reach speeds (depending on count, pill size, neck opening) of up to 60 bottles per minute on a 30 count.
Multi-Channel Tablet Counting Machine
Multi-Channel Tablet Counting Machines - Easy Changeovers, Fast, Accurate
Multi Channel tablet counters offer the extreme accuracy of count, easy changeover, and the speeds required for today's demanding pharmaceutical and nutraceutical requirements. Soft gels, capsules and tablets of all shapes and sizes can be filled accurately with channel counters. Available in 12 channel increments with production speeds of fifty bottles per minute per 12 channels is possible. Changeovers and cleanup can be completed in less than 15 minutes without the use of tools. Store up to 50 product counts and settings into memory for instant startup.