Depending on budget and output goals, you may want a semi-automatic or fully automatic filling machine.
Starting a business is expensive. The expenditures can add up rapidly before a single product is ready for sale.
No matter your industry, you probably started by doing as much by hand as possible. On the surface, it seems cheaper to pay an employee to fill your bottles rather than buy a dedicated bottle filler machine. But while that employee will take breaks, make mistakes, go on vacation, and call in sick, a piece of reliable liquid filling machinery won’t.
This doesn’t mean that employees are lazy or flawed or even that a piece of equipment needs to replace them. It also doesn’t imply that machines are perfect. Machines need to be maintained and repaired, and if a bottle filling machine isn’t properly calibrated or was poorly constructed, it’s certainly capable of making errors.
The point to take away is that removing human hands from an operation requiring speed and precision will benefit everyone. That employee can be reassigned to another task that’s more rewarding and profitable. Everyone wins.
Before we discuss filling machine types, there's one measurement that all producers need to know — their products' viscosity. The viscosity of the liquid you will be putting into your bottle filling machine will determine which type of machine you need. To find out your products' viscosity, you'll need to use a viscometer.
Now let's find the right bottle filling machine for your packaging line.
Manual vs. Automatic
Depending on your budget and rate of production, you’ll need to think about whether you need a manual, semi-automatic, or fully automatic filling machine.
- Manual: Manal machines require a human touch. The machine can take care of how much liquid is poured into the containers, but an employee may still be required to place the bottles in position, move the bottles to the next machine, or even start the process of filling. Manual filling machines are generally the cheapest option and take up the least floor space, but they are also the slowest.
- Semi-Automatic: With this option, more operations are taken care of automatically, but there are still employee-driven functions the machine can’t do, such as feeding bottles to the next piece of equipment. Larger and more expensive than a manual machine, these are a step up in production output.
- Fully Automatic: These machines do it all. Bottles get fed in one end, are filled, and come out the other end into the next part of the packaging line. They are the largest and most expensive machines but also the fastest and most productive.
Piston vs. Peristaltic Pump
This is where your products’ viscosity will come into play.
Make sure you know whether your product is viscous, semi-viscous, or water-like before you settle on a particular liquid filling machine. Over-filling or under-filling may not only make the printed information on your label inaccurate but, depending on what the product is, could be dangerous.
- Piston Pump: This is the more accurate of the two, with an accuracy range of about 0.5%. Piston filling machines can also handle highly viscous liquids better than peristaltic pump filling machines. Cleanup is messier, however, since you can’t just swap out some tubing and start your next batch. The machine must be cleaned thoroughly before another product can run through.
- Peristaltic Pump: These are much easier to clean than piston pump designs since the tubing is all that needs to be swapped out before a second batch is run. Peristaltic pumps are also, by design, much smoother with no “pulsing” as they pump. The downsides are that they can’t handle liquids with high viscosity like piston pumps, and they tend to be less accurate, with a range of around 1-2%.
Fill Level vs. Volumetric
To ensure every bottle gets the same amount of liquid, bottle-filling machines measure the amount they dispense. There are two ways fillers measure the dispensed liquid, so you’ll need to know how each works and which will fit your needs best.
- Fill Level: These machines fill bottles to a preset fill level, making the bottles appear to have liquid all at the same height. The problem with this method is that there can be significant variances in the amount of fluid in the containers even though they appear the same.
- Volumetric: This type of filling measures the precise amount of liquid. Bottles each get the same amount regardless of how full the bottles look to the naked eye. This ensures every customer receives the same amount of your product. This is the method of filling that Pack Leader USA uses for our filling machines.
What Else Is Important?
Now that you know the different types of filling machines you may encounter, here are some more points you should consider.
- Speed: Just about any filling machine will be faster than an employee doing the same job by hand, but your machine will have to be able to take bottles from the previous machine and feed them to the next without creating a bottleneck. Make sure whatever machine you settle on can adjust its speed accordingly.
- Durability: Your filling equipment should last for decades with minimal maintenance and repair. Look for machines with tight tolerances and rust-resistant, durable materials, such as 304 stainless steel and aluminum, like Pack Leader USA uses for all our equipment.
- Flexibility: Sometimes, you’ll need to move your filling machine from one part of your packaging line to another. It should be modular, adjustable, and moveable with a minimum of time spent.
Explore Our Bottle Filling Equipment
Pack Leader USA’s FL-12 and FL-14 liquid filling machines can transform your packaging line into a production powerhouse. They’re easy to use with integrated controls and plenty of memory to store multiple types of product parameters and can easily slot into your production facility.
Pack Leader USA is more than a provider of quality equipment; we’re also a trusted partner with the experience to help you make the most productive packaging line possible.