There are many types of liquid fillers on the market today including pressure fillers, piston fillers, gravity fillers, flow meter filling equipment and more. How do you know which is the right one for your application? Whether you’re an emerging brand or a seasoned packager, read on for considerations to weigh in the balance as you look to purchase or replace your liquid filling equipment.
1. Consider the viscosity of your product first
Different filling equipment is best equipped for different liquids. That’s why viscosity – the thickness of your product -- is a top factor to keep in mind. Thick products may require pumps or pistons for optimal results, while thinner products may require overflow filling features. Peristaltic filling is a great alternative for a clean product path but is only suitable for small fills and non-viscous products. Keep in mind that if you’re looking for versatility, flow meter or piston fillers are considered the most versatile fillers because they can handle fluids of various viscosities.
2. Look at the speed of your liquid filling operation
Like everything, you’ll need to know your production requirements. Rotary fillers and flow meter machines are frequently best suited for high-speed (high output) filling of liquids. There are also automation considerations to think about. Your desired output will determine the ideal level of automation for your liquid filling machine. Automated liquid filling equipment will be faster than manual, or semi-automatic equipment.
3. What level of accuracy is required for the fillers?
In many applications, the emphasis is on highly accurate fill levels. To evaluate the level of accuracy, consider your container. Is the fill level visible to consumers? Is it by fill line or volume? Piston and servo fillers can be highly versatile and accurate, with some units reaching to within 0.25% of fill volume. Many piston and servo fillers can also handle both viscous and non-viscous products. Used in a variety of liquid filling operations, gear pumps and lobe pumps are good for running non-viscous products with limited accuracy, often reaching within 1% of fill volume. When looking outside of volume, and instead when a visible fill line is necessary, consider gravity fillers or pressure fillers for this job. These machines are designed to maintain a visual fill level across containers that can vary in volume.
4. Cleanliness considerations
How clean does your equipment need to be maintained? Consider the type of product you’re running and the requirements of keeping product contamination at bay. For food and beverage products, remember that the machine must be made of FDA-approved sanitary materials and cleanability is of maximum importance. Oftentimes peristaltic pumps are recommended when a clean product path is imperative. Also, consider how easy the machine is to clean. Often, a simpler design is better: look for liquid filling machines that don’t have nooks and crannies that can harbor microorganisms. Also, you can look for filling machines that have clean-in-place systems as a standard feature.
As you explore which type of liquid filler is best for your facility, consider testing out various systems with potential suppliers. Perform filling tests using actual product to test the different filling technologies and understand which one provides the best results for you.
Checklist for emerging brands
If you are an emerging brand that is just starting out and looking for your first liquid filler, take the top seven questions to use as a checklist when working with suppliers to make your final purchase decision.
1. What are your bottle sizes?
2. What products are you filling?
3. Are there particles or suspensions in the product?
4. What is the max line speed?
5. Are there any plant location requirements?
6. What is the accuracy required?
7. What is the cleaning process like for the wetted path?
Image courtesy of Fogg Filler Co.