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Fillers-TripleMExpo

The type of Food or beverage filling machines to be used is usually determined by the type of product to be filled, speed requirements, quality and shelf life expectations, resources availability, technology feasibility and many other variables.

Type of food products may range from solid to semi-solids, from liquids to frozen, from hot to cold, from free flowing to highly viscous products etc. This wide range of product characteristics also suggests that filling machines with great flexibility and versatility are most valuable.

There are various filling technologies for liquid and dry products and product filling machines can be rotary or inline, intermittent or continuous motion, semi-automatic or fully automatic with various filling technologies to cater for the huge range of product variables and user requirements, each offering unique advantages.

Liquid Filling:

Liquid is defined as the fundamental state of matter which has definite volume but no fixed shape. There are hundreds of liquid filling machinery manufacturers offering filling solutions having unique or similar filling technologies. The product filler is a key to effective line performance and must be properly selected to achieve the desired results. 

Fillers can be rotary or inline, intermittent or continuous motion, semi-automatic or fully automatic with various filling technologies to cater for the huge range of product variables and user requirements, each offering unique advantages. The filling architecture for liquid fillers falls into two major categories that are volumetric and level fillers.

Step Filling:

Sometimes filling may need to take place in multiple steps. The reason for this can be maximum product discharge limitation or product characteristics concerns like foaming etc. So, the total product is filled in 2 or more cycles on the same filling station.
Some systems may include filling by multiple pumps / heads in sequential process. So, the filling head will fill the container partially and then the container is moved to the next filling head to fill some more, this process may involve 2 or more filling heads. This ensures good speed and reliability.

Rotary Gear pumps:

Rotary Gear pumps have got many applications in liquid filling. The pump consists of a pair of gears in a chamber, driven by a motor. As the gears rotate, they force the product out of the chamber. The gear pump may consist of pinion gears, rotary pistons or lobes. The way this filler works is directly related to the size and rotational displacement of the pockets formed by the gear teeth. The slippage can cause some throughput variations but if the clearances between the gears and the clearances between gears and chambers are maintained and feeding head, pump speed, viscosity, back pressure are held constant then these pumps are quite accurate.

Peristaltic Pumps:

 A peristaltic pump is a type of positive displacement pump used for pumping a variety of fluids. The fluid is contained within a flexible tube fitted inside a circular pump casing. A rotor with a number of "rollers" or "lobes" attached to the external circumference of the rotor compresses the flexible tube. As the rotor turns, the part of the tube under compression is pinched closed thus forcing the fluid to be pumped to move through the tube. The important characteristics of the tubing are its ability to resist repeated deforming without damage. Rotary peristaltic pumps are more common but linear peristaltic pumps are also used in product dispensing. Rubber and silicone rubber tubing in various grades are commonly used. (Marprene tubing is quite good for this purpose). One downside of using peristaltic pumps for product dispensing is that the pump discharge tends to pulsate, especially at higher speeds. This may cause problems with splashing or foaming. Pulsation can be reduced by different means but can’t be totally eliminated.

Weight Filling:

Weight filling technology is the only filling technology that controls the amount of product while it goes into the container. Volumetric fillers measure the physical volume of the product and if there are gas bubbles or variations in bulk density of the product then the weight control becomes extremely hard. Weight filling systems overcome this concern.
There are number of variations in design of the weight fillers but most designs fall into the folowing types.  

Gross weight fillers: 

Gross weight fillers assume constant weight of the containers and the weight is determined during startup and entered into the HMI (computer / controller). The container is moved onto a scale OR load cell located under the filling nozzle. If necessary, the container is tared / zeroed. A flow valve is opened and the product flows by gravity OR pressure into the container. When the target weight is achieved the nozzle / flow valve is closed.  

Pinch Valve Filling:

The pinch valve filler contains pair of bars Or gears that pinch the tubing close, the pinching may be done via mechanical linkages OR may be done by a pneumatic cylinder. The dosing is controlled by rotation of the gears / bars.  The advantage is that it requires little cleaning as it never comes in contact with the product. The disadvantage is if the pinch valve fails to open or there is blockage at the discharge then excessive pressure can develop between the pump and the valve, this may cause the hose connections to come apart or the tubing to burst.

Diaphragm Pumps:

The diaphragm pump consists of a chamber, one end of which is closed with a flexible membrane or diaphragm. The diaphragm is connected to a mechanical linkage which pulls it in and out. As it is pulled out, it increases the volume of the chamber and the product is sucked in, once the product is filled in the chamber, the mechanical linkage is pushed in and it decreases the chamber volume discharging the product to be filled. A vacuum connection in the non-product side assures that the diaphragm always retracts to a repeatable shape and volume. The dispensed fill volume is a function of chamber diameter size and the amount of movement of the diaphragm. If it is set up correctly, it is as precise as cylinder and piston.   

Mass flow-meter Systems:

Mass flow meters resolve many of the problems associated with the weighing scale based systems. The mass flow meter, also known as an inertial flow meter is a device that measures mass flow rate of a fluid traveling through a tube. The mass flow rate is the mass of the fluid traveling past a fixed point per unit time.
The mass flow meter uses a coriolis effect flow meter to measure product flow before it reaches the filling nozzle. When working, the filling nozzle is opened and product flow commences, driven by pump, pressurized reservoir or gravity. As the product is passed through the meter, its mass is measured and when the target weight is achieved the inlet nozzle is closed and the product is discharged.
The mass flow meter does not measure the volume per unit time (e.g., cubic meters per second) passing through the device; it measures the mass per unit time (e.g., kilograms per second) flowing through the device. Volumetric flow rate is the mass flow rate divided by the fluid density. If the density is constant, then the relationship is simple. If the fluid has varying density, then the relationship is not simple. The density of the fluid may change with temperature, pressure, or composition, for example. The fluid may also be a combination of phases such as a fluid with entrained bubbles.

Volume flowmeter  System:

These volumetric flowmeter differs from the mass flow meter in that they measure physical volume instead of weight of product. The acceleration and deceleration of the normal filling cycle may degrade the actual accuracy but as these accuracies are quite stable from container to container. The stability allows them to be taken care of during normal functioning. Another way of solving this concern is by providing constant flow through the meter.
Time / Pressure Filling:
Time / Pressure fillers OR time and pressure fillers are based on the principle that total volume dispensed is the product of flow rate through a nozzle multiplied by the time that the nozzle is open. The time / pressure filler consists of a pressurized reservoir with highly accurate pressure control and discharge valve which is precisely controlled by a timer. During operation, the valve is opened allowing product flow through the nozzle. On completion of the timer cycle, the valve is closed. The actual control of pressure in the reservoir, tube lengths & openings, the precise control of timing and actuation of the valves are all very critical things and any variations can cause major concerns on the reliability of production consistency.

Time/gravity filling:    

Time/gravity filling is variation on time / pressure filling. The principle difference is that instead of filling pressurized vessel, an ambient pressure reservoir is mounted above the product. The machine works by a simple principle, the amount of liquid flowing through a fluid path having a constant head will always be the same for a fixed amount of time. The product bulk supply is pumped into a holding tank above a set of pneumatically operated valves.
Gravity creates the driving pressure as the dispensing valve is opened for fix interval of time. Gravity is constant, eliminating the pressure variable. System pressure and flow rate is controlled by the height of the product surface / head. Once set, it will not vary. Multiple nozzles may be supplied by a single reservoir, as the closing of one nozzle has no effect on the pressure to the other nozzles. Time is easy to control precisely so a time / gravity system results in a simple system with highly precise and repeatable fills even with multiple filling channels.     The valves are controlled by the filler''s master computer so that precise amounts of liquid will flow by gravity into the container. Small changes in product head can cause a lot of reliability issues. Independent timing of each filling valve/nozzle corrects for minor variations in flow rates so that each container is filled accurately.

Standpipe Fillers:

Standpipe Fillers are a hybrid combining volumetric filling and level filling. They consist of a product supply reservoir, a vertical tube or standpipe, level sensor and control valves. The system is arranged so that product can flow from the reservoir through a control valve to fill the standpipe. A high level sensor in the standpipe detects the product and closes the valve when the desired level is reached. At that time, a second valve at the bottom of the standpipe opens, allowing product to flow to the filling nozzle and into the container. A low-level sensor shuts the discharge valve when it detects the surface of the product. Fill volume is a function of the diameter of the standpipe and the difference in elevation. 

 

Level Filling:

In Level Filling, the container volume determines the filling process. Level Fillers are very simple and they eliminate much of the need for pumps, drives and electro-mechanical controls inherent in many volumetric fillers. For many products, appearance of complete fill is more important than the actual quantity of the product in the container. It is this ability to give the cosmetic appearance of uniform volume that causes level fillers to be sometimes called cosmetic fillers.

 

Overflow Fillers

 

A simple and very common type of level filler uses a nozzle with two channels. One channel is for introducing the liquid into the container and the other for venting the air and the excess product. While filling, the nozzle is inserted into the container and a seal contacts the container top to prevent the air or liquid to escape around the nozzle. As the valve is opened, the flow commences to the bottle. Overflow fillers can be of gravity, pressure or vacuum type. All these three variants are quite similar except for the variations in the product piping arrangement.
The amount of time required for filling is a function of flow rate and volume. The exact timing is not critical, provided it is long enough for a complete fill. For continuous motion rotary fillers, the fill time is controlled by filler turret speed.
Final volume in the container is controlled by the depth of insertion of the nozzle. This depth may be controlled by washers or spacers. Typically, the accuracy of fill level will be about +/- 1.5 mm.
Overflow fillers can come as Gravity Filler OR can have pressurized reservoir OR product can be delivered by positive displacement pumps. The type of product usually determines the best filling technique.
 Another less common option can be using vacuum for product transfer in overflow fillers. In this vacuum is usually connected to the vent channel and product is sucked through vent during filling.

Level-sensing filler

In level fillers, usually a sensor is used to detect the proper level. Sensors can be external or internal to the filling nozzle. Sensors may be ultrasonic, capacitive, proximity, photoelectric or any other type.  
Counter Pressure Filling:
Carbonated liquids have pressurized gas in the liquid. So, they are filled using a special technique called “counter-pressure filling”.
The filling steps usually involve
Purging (mostly with CO2 to remove the air from the container),
Pressurization (Equalization of pressure between the empty container & the product by putting CO2)
Product filling while controlled venting of CO2
Pressure relief on completion of the filling cycle and after the product valve is closed. The pressure from the container is vented and equalized to ambient pressure, and after that the nozzle is withdrawn.

Dry Products Filling:

 Piece Filling:

 Piece Fillers OR Count Fillers fill individual pieces by count. Applications include candies, tablets, nuts & screws etc. These fillers have their use in Confectionery, Pharmaceuticals, FMCG & hardware industry.
In this filler, the product is usually fed into a vibratory channel/conveyor/trough and that helps the product to align, separate, singularize and transfer to the filling head. Some sort of a photo sensor OR other electronic or mechanical sensor is required to count the products as they are dropped into the container. Once the correct piece count has been dispensed, the flow is stopped until the next empty container is ready. Higher speeds can be achieved by using multiple tracks, channels and sensors.

 

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  • Hiren Pandya
    Hiren Pandya

    One of our customer is interested in having a complete filling and packaging line for fragrances and various oils.
    The primary containers are plastic bottles ranging from 10ml to 250ml and the line speed required is 80 bpm.
    The machines required on the line are Unscrambler, Filler, Capper, Labeller and Cartoner.
    If you can provide the complete line, please let me know hirenpandya9266@yahoo.com.au and I will send further details

    TripleMExpo
  • Sam Tripodi
    Sam Tripodi

    Thanks for sharing this information. I will like to know more about counter pressure fillers and their major suppliers, can someone please suggest / recommend?

    TripleMExpo
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