Liquid filling solutions may be geared to the product they serve but consumer caprice and brand strength is the source of beverage, liquid food and cosmetics success. These market forces demand teamwork between machinery maker and customer if packaging lines are to be cost-effective. Rod Abbott reports
Before the consumer can enjoy a glass of any soft drink, each sip has to complete an extensive journey down a production line that has been tailored to the product and the pack in which it is contained. In other words, process, package and filling method are directly related to each other. It would be a mistake to assume that the pack alone is responsible for presenting a soft drink to the consumer that is fresh and appetising. The right processing and filling equipment is of equal importance. Get it wrong and one could be a spectator at the death of a famous brand.
However, like many process and packaging solutions, liquid filling may be geared to the product it serves, but consumer caprice and brand strength is the source of beverage, liquid food and cosmetics success. These market forces demand teamwork between machinery maker and customer if packaging lines are to be cost-effective.
“Customers now require flexibility to change from longer to shorter runs with versatile machines running a large and diverse range of products and containers so a quick changeover and easy cleaning are essential,” explains Adelphi chairman Stephen Holroyd.
With input from customers, Adelphi has designed a new bench top pneumatic filling machine, Response, for filling 5-1000ml, which is said to be suitable for many industries. It is designed with stainless steel curved and sloping surfaces. All controls are within easy reach of the operator at the front and strip-down for cleaning is quick. The machine can be bench mounted or fitted to one of a range of tables such as the rotary table for two Responses back-to-back for instant changeovers.
Two, three or four Response machines can be plugged into the detachable mobile bed of the new Response automation system. This provides PLC controlled automatic filling with diving cut-off nozzles, conveyor and gating with filling speeds up to 60/min. Any one of the Responses can be removed in seconds for a small run.
If space is a problem Adelphi also offers the 2m² PLC-controlled Cerberus monobloc automatic filling, plugging and capping machine for containers ranging from 0.2-245ml. The Cerberus can incorporate three different types of filling system – volumetric, peristaltic or vacuum.
For short runs of small containers the bench top Adelphi peristaltic filler and XY distributor automatically fills a tray of containers at a time and with a memory for up to 50 different configurations. The liquid only comes into contact with the filling tubing which gives minimal down time for changeover of product and prevents cross contamination.
With smoothies the run away success story of the beverage market over the past few years, Tetra Pak Processing has been working hard to ensure production technology keeps abreast of the sector’s marketing finesse.
In the UK, Tetra Pak Processing has been closely involved with new plants required to produce a fair proportion of the 34m plus litres now consumed on the home market at a retail value of £134m.
Even though sales have risen 523% between 2001 and 2006, only 31% of adults currently buy smoothies and research analyst Mintel claims that a large, untapped market remains. Indeed, Mintel predicts that sales by volume in the UK will treble by 2011, reaching almost 100m litres.
The Tetra Pak A3/Flex has been designed to enable the user to modify pack sizes and shapes. Servomotors reduce mechanical complexity and simplify setting of the jaw system. Stroke changes, driven by servomotors and necessary for volume conversions, can be simply carried out. The conversion of the filling machine between any two packs can be carried out within seven hours (excluding cleaning and sterilisation).
The use of consumables is said to be low thanks to a deep-bath sterilisation system and space-optimised sterilisation chambers a quarter the size of carton competitors’ machines. These factors are claimed to lead to fewer control points, lower level of peroxide consumption and shorter recovery time.
The Novapac range of liquid filling solutions, distributed in the UK by CC Automation, includes rotary cup filling and sealing machines, thermoforming machines, tube filling and sealing, homogenisers and feeding systems. The machines are made in food grade stainless steel with a solid frame to provide smooth running. Mechanical drives are designed for high filling rates and stability, while clear access to the machine parts allows for greater hygiene. “The high flexibility of the Novapac machines means high performance and filling up to eight lanes or portioning into large containers,” says CC Automation managing director David Wilson.
Recently Novapac has seen a demand for its ultra clean and aseptic filling machines, particularly for premium products and where extended shelf life is required. The machines also provide fast tool free changeovers and a variety of pots can be filled on the same rotary filler – round, square, rectangular and oval. With the thermoforming lines the choice is wider, with Novapac producing heart-shaped pots.
“Constant filling accuracy is provided by Novapac from its range of dosing systems which help to improve efficiency and minimise product wastage,” adds Wilson. These include piston feeder with CIP option, flow rate and screw filling, compensator and weighing systems.
The rotary cup fillers are supplied in single lane up to eight lanes and speeds from 2,000-12,000 pots/hr. Applications include liquids, yoghurt drinks, yoghurt, cream, cream cheese, butter and margarine, while lidding systems can be pre-cut plastic, aluminium or reel fed systems, often combined with a snap-over cap.
Novapac dosing systems are supplied for automatic CIP where short cleaning and product changeovers are made through a menu driven system. This provides complete automatic in-place cleaning of the dosing system and nozzles.
CC Automation also represents the German company Miromatic. These machines are typically suited to the food service and catering markets where 5-20kg tubs may be required. Ultra clean, CIP and aseptic options are available. This range of equipment is suitable for filling yoghurt, mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard and cream cheese.
Complete elimination of the front table for the newly developed F1 volumetric filler from Krones was made possible by a new drive featuring synchronous servomotors. Krones has adopted a completely fresh approach here. The entire production machine is broken down into individual parts. In the case of the filler these comprise the ring bowl, all star wheels, the infeed worm, the infeed conveyor and the closer. Since there are no longer any mechanical couplings between these components, the filler’s entire front table can be dispensed with.
Synchronous servomotors are used to enhance flexibility. In order not to lose synchronicity inside the machine in the event of a power cut, which would inevitably result in damage, all the DC links of the servo frequency converters are coupled.
Eliminating the front table creates significantly improved accessibility and a user-friendly, aseptic responsive construction with good cleaning options. All mechanical components have been standardised on a modular principle so that even subsequent retrofit expansions, such as a second closer, are conceivable.
Dutch soft drinks producer Vrumona BV Frisdrankenindustrie installed a new F1 filling line from Krones rated at 24,000 PET containers/hr in early 2006. In the autumn Vrumona placed a follow-up order for an identical line but this time with a 25% higher output. The enthusiastic feedback from the field for this system has encouraged Krones to go further by applying the drive system to a new generation of modularised labellers.
Ocme’s Hydra rotary level filler offers speeds from 12,000-100,000 bottles/hr and is particularly suited for filling glass or PET bottles and cans with still or sparkling beverages. Models with from 40-120 filling heads are available, featuring a simple filling valve with a minimum of parts, separate air return and a filling valve with zero dynamic gasket. The annular tank is said to be easily washable and the header tank completely drainable. A stainless steel inclined base frame allows for easy drainage.
Pitch range spans 94mm for a maximum bottle diameter of 89mm, 113mm for a maximum bottle diameter of 108mm and 126mm for a maximum bottle diameter of 120mm.
The simple filling valve is composed of very few elements. There are no dynamic gaskets so there is no need to carry out extensive maintenance on this component. Those parts in contact with product are manufactured in stainless steel 316 or special food grade rubber resistant to aggressive treatments such as ozonated water, hot CIP cycle and acid additives.
Eurofill makes liquid filling and capping systems (including conveyors) for the toiletry, cosmetics and food industries. Its products range from small semi-automatic machines to fully automated high-speed filling systems, all of which are reputed to offer rapid changeovers and a high degree of flexibility. Typically the systems have the ability to fill from 1ml-50 litres/min.
Masterfil has also launched a new servo-drive filler developed for the toiletries and cosmetics industry that is said to offer customers “unrivalled levels of flexibility, speed and precision filling as well as significant cost savings.”
Particularly suited to the international market, the S500-AS servo-drive filler has the option of modem-link direct to the company’s headquarters in the UK. This link enables customers to connect with Masterfil for immediate on-line assistance from an engineer, providing increased production efficiency through savings in maintenance costs and reduction in downtime.
The filler was designed to provide toiletries and cosmetics’ manufacturers with a fast and efficient filling system capable of handling frequent product changeovers. The new machine offers automated touch-pad controlled filling, minimising the number of manual adjustments required. Filling speeds can be accurately pre-programmed to suit the viscosity of the liquid and the container shape and up to 50 different pre-set programmes can be stored in the systems memory.
Particularly high levels of precision filling are attainable with the new filler as the fill speed can be controlled in increments of 1%, offering a potential eight fill speeds for any one application, says Masterfil. Available with six and eight heads, the S500-AS toiletries filler is quick and easy to clean and capable of filling a range of products of varying viscosities from thin foaming liquids such as shampoos and bubble baths to thick creams and gels. The machine can fill containers from 30-500ml and operates at speeds of up to 80 0.5-litre containers/min. The system is constructed from stainless steel and is IP65 rated.
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A Novapac RM200 4-lane rotary cup fill and seal machine for cream cheese supplied to Kraft Foods
The Tetra Pak A3/Flex has been designed to enable the user to modify pack sizes and shapes Dutch soft drinks producer Vrumona has now installed two F1 filling lines from Krones For short runs of small containers the benchtop Adelphi peristaltic filler and XY distributor automatically fills a tray of containers Belgium’s Gropper dairy commissioned the first Krones PET-Asept line for dry sterilisation with hydrogen peroxide as a pilot project
Two, three or four Adelphi Response machines can be plugged into the detachable mobile bed of the new Response automation system and any one of the Responses can be removed in seconds for a small run The ultra-clean Miromatic bucket filling system is suited to the foodservice and catering markets where 5-20kg tubs may be required