A Guide to Filling Machines

If you have a business production line that packages and sells a product, chances are you might be interested in investing in a filling machine...

A Guide to Filling Machines

Image credit: iStock

If you have a business production line that packages and sells a product, chances are you might be interested in investing in a filling machine – ideal for if you’re struggling to meet demand, are looking to increase your output or are searching for a way to bottle your product more accurately while also minimising wastage.

But, as an expensive piece of equipment, before you invest it’s important to ensure you have all the facts, so you can make the right decision for you and your business. From the different types of filling machines to how they work, what they cost and how to keep them clean, read on for our top tips in our guide to filling machines.

What Is a Filling Machine?

Filling machines are a necessary piece of equipment for many industries, ranging from food and beverages to pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, and can help to maintain high levels of accuracy and flexibility. They work by quickly measuring and extracting specific amounts of a product from bulk, and accurately filling a certain type of container to a specific level.

What Is a Filling Machine Used For?

Whether it’s tomato sauce, washing up liquid, honey or toothpaste, every bottle, jar or tube you see on a supermarket shelf has likely been through a filling process. This is because, when packaging products for mass consumption, uniformity of fill and the reduction of costly wastage is key.

How Does a Filling Machine Work?

How your filling machine works will depend entirely on the model, and the material you are using. However, for most types of filling machine the process is the same – namely collecting a specific volume or weight of a product and dispensing it into a container. 

From flow filling and volume filling to filling by weight, a filling machine can work a number of different ways. But the basic principle stays the same – the product is batched, portioned and dropped into its specific packaging – precisely, accurately and speedily. 

What Are the Different Types of Filling Machine?

There are a range of filling machines available, and which one you choose depends on a range of factors including the consistency or viscosity of your product, the type of container being filled and the volume of production. All of these must be considered to ensure you choose a machine that can handle your materials. The most common types of filling machine are:

Liquid Filling Machines:

Liquid filling machines are available in variety of different systems to suit different needs:

  • Manual liquid filling machines: requiring no electricity or power source, these filling machines are manually operated, help to increase accuracy and output and are ideal for smaller scale production lines.
  • Semi-automatic liquid filling machines: faster than manual filling and ideal for small to medium scale production lines, semi-automatic liquid filling machines offer a flexible and accurate solution. 
  • Automatic liquid filling machines: designed to minimise manual labour, automatic filling machines are used for large-scale production
  • Rotary filling machines: ideal for specialist production, rotary filling machines are laid out in a circular style, feature multiple filling heads and work with a range of materials, offering speedy production. 
  • Piston filling machine: also called a volumetric filling machine and designed to measure and dispense a range of free-flowing liquids, while the piston features are used to push the product from the machine into the container.
  • Inline liquid filling machines: cost-effective and simple to adjust, this popular choice fills products in a straight line and is easy to adjust to your needs. 
  • Liquid filling machines are used for:
  • Wine
  • Water
  • Oil
  • Syrup

Powder and Granule Filling Machines:

Powder filling machines are regularly used in the food and beverage, cosmetic and chemical industries for precisely pouring powders and granules into packaging. 

Powder and granule filling machines are used for:

  • Sugar
  • Coffee
  • Fertilisers
  • Washing detergent

 

Capsule Filling Machines:

A capsule filling machine is used to fill capsules, either hard or soft, tablets and pills with powders, granules or liquids, usually in pharmaceuticals and medicines.

Capsule filling machines are used for:

  • Medicine
  • Washing detergent

 

Gel Filling Machines:

When packaging gels or higher viscose materials, a gel filling machine is ideal, as it’s designed for heavier substances that can block a liquid filling machine. 

Gel filling machines are used for:

  • Creams
  • Lotions
  • Shampoos
  • Car wax

How Much Does a Filling Machine Cost?

There’s no doubt that a filling machine is an expensive piece of kit, and the cost depends on a number of factors including the type of machine, its functionality and capabilities, the level of automation, and with how much manual labour is needed to operate it. Generally speaking, the simpler the machine, the cheaper the cost.

How to Clean a Liquid Filling Machine:

In order to avoid any blockages or wastage, you’ll need to regularly clean and service your filling machine to maintain optimal functionality. As with any busy environment, the aim is to prevent machinery downtime, which can affect profits. So, instead of taking it apart, the best and easiest way to clean a liquid filling machine is by using a Clean in Place, or CIP, system.

This system works by rinsing and sanitising the equipment, either with hot water or cleaning fluid, to avoid any product build-ups, cross-contamination or dust and debris. This is especially useful if you use a singular machine to produce a range of different products. 

Similarly, this process is much quicker than manual cleaning,  less labour-intensive and much safer. As the CIP system focuses only on the product pathway, it’s important that the exterior of the filling machine, including any additional accessories or components, is also kept clean. The best way to do this is to schedule in routine maintenance and cleaning to avoid large scale problems.

Our Top Tips to Maintaining Your Filling Machine:

If you’re not vigilant on properly maintaining your packaging machinery and equipment, not only can it cause bacteria contamination and product build-up, but it’s also unsafe and can result in costly breakdowns. Ensure your production lines remain clean and fully functional with our top tips:

  • Preventative maintenance is key

In order to extend the life of your filling machine and ensure optimal production, creating a clear and effective preventative equipment maintenance plan is important. Preventative maintenance works by solving potential problems before they occur, which helps to prevent costly breakdowns. 

  • Introduce regular maintenance tasks and training

Routine maintenance tasks are a simple yet important part of preventing dreaded machinery downtime, along with the need for costly, more time-consuming maintenance. Taking the time to perform cleaning and machinery upkeep will go a long way toward preventing any issues with your filling machinery of equipment. 

Machine operators should be experts about the machines they work with and should be trained to understand not just how to operate the machine, but how it works, and why. This is because they are best placed to recognise if there are any issues with the machine and can, therefore, report any abnormalities back to the maintenance team.

It’s a good idea to set out clear tasks for employees to follow, whether on a shift by shift, daily or weekly basis, meaning they’re more accountable when issues do occur, while regular training can help them to keep their knowledge up to date.

  • Keep an inventory of spare parts

Maintaining performance and efficiency is key in production, and so keeping a stock of spare parts is crucial for the reliable running of any production processes. While an expensive upfront cost, being prepared will go a long way towards stopping problems before they occur. It’s all about operating with a preventative strategy – analysing past data and patterns to find the parts or areas of the machine that are more likely to need regularly replacing or fixing. Not only will this help you to see problems you may have missed, but will also assist you in making better use of resources, keeping productivity up and costs down. 

We offer a range of filling machines for every sector and provide unbeatable service, working hard to make sure your production line performs efficiently, without compromising safety or accuracy. Take a look at our full range of packaging equipment now to find out more or talk to an expert today.

 

 

 

 

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