What Is a Piston Filler – Here’s Everything you Should Know

Today, piston filler is a perfect choice for most liquid filling companies. Reason – it has many advantages, simple design, and straightforward working principle.

In this article, we will explore all fundamental aspects about piston filling machine – let’s dive right in:

Advantages of Piston Filler

When you implement a piston filler in your manufacturing or processing plant, you make great strides in achieving the same.

These reasons should compel you to use a piston filler in your operations:

  • Customization: The ability of piston fillers to operate at different fill volumes and speeds allows you to uniquely customize your operation. This is especially useful when undertaking filling operations for different products and with different containers.
  • High Production Speeds:Depending on your unique configurations, you can achieve high filling rates. That is, you can fill many containers at the same time. This allows you to meet the demands of a large production operation.
  • Hygiene and Quality: The non-invasive process is ideal when undertaking operations dealing with food substances and pharmaceuticals. During the filling process, there is virtually no interaction between products and human.
  • Fill Control:Accuracy and precision when dispensing products is fundamental. As a result, each fill is exactly the same resulting in uniform quality output with minimal wastage and maximum yield.
  • Versatility:You can fill both low to highly viscous substances. It can also handle many products including liquid, semi-liquid, paste and creams, just to mention a few.
  • Reliability: Piston fillers can operate continuously without fail in demanding industrial environments, minimizing downtime. Additionally, the efficiency of their operation reduces product wastage which positively affects output.

How A Piston Filler Works

Piston filler working principle is quite straightforward:

  • The containers in which the product is loaded into e.g. jars, bottles or tubes are fed to the filling station. A feeding mechanism like a conveyor belt is used to move along these containers.
  • A hopper holds the product intended for filling and is usually oriented vertically to hover above the filler. A supply line is used to control product flow through the use of pumps or other mechanism.
  • The filling station features the piston filler which is usually located just above the container you want to fill. You can have a single filling head or multiple heads depending on the machine configuration. In filling the container, the filling head(s) descends through the container opening positioned directly below it.
  • Piston filler working principle depend on pistons. We have these pistons in special housing. The piston is driven by either a hydraulic, pneumatic or servo motor system.
  • As piston moves within the cylinder system, it creates a cavity. The cavity consequently creates a vacuum allowing product to flow in ready for filling process.At the lowest position, once the product is within the cylinder, the intake valve closes. Consequently, it traps the product.
  • Thereafter, the piston expunges the product via an outlet valve into the container positioned below. Usually, it is the stroke length that determines the volume of product you want to fill. With this design, it is one of the most accurate filling technique.
  • You can adjust operation parameters of the piston to accommodate different production requirements. These include; fill volume and speed, piston stroke length, and filling head position.
Piston Filler Working Principle
Piston Filler Working Principle

Components of a Piston Filler

The precise and efficient operation of a piston filler is down to the seamless operation of its components. Some standard components include:

Hopper

The product to be dispensed is stored in the hopper and can have varying capacities depending on product type and production volume. Hoppers are typically fashioned from food-grade plastic or stainless steel to prevent product contamination.

It regulates product flow into the filling system via a supply system that may include pumps and valves. You may also find hoppers equipped with agitators to ensure consistent flow and prevent product settling. They can also have sensors and probes to monitor levels preventing over/underfilling.

Filling Heads

These particular components dispense the product by descending into the containers. You can have a single filling head in your piston filler or have multiple heads for a higher production capacity. These filling heads are designed to suit the product being dispensed and the container opening.

Piston Mechanism

Each filling head is equipped with a piston mechanism which allows product intake, measurement, and discharge. The piston mechanism consists a piston housed within a cylinder within which it moves up and down. This movement allows the piston to draw and dispense product in the desired volume.

Valves

Product flowing into and out of the cylinder does so through valves i.e. intake and outlet valves. In most designs, the process begins by opening the intake valves. Consequently, the product flows into the cylinder cavity for filling process. Contrarily, the outlet valve allows product exit from the cylinder.

Nozzles

When product is dispensed into the containers it does so through the nozzles which are typically attached to the filling heads. Nozzles can be made in different designs owing to the different product containers available. Additionally, nozzles are designed to prevent spillage or dripping during the filling process which minimizes product loss.

Conveyor System

While you can manually position containers to be filled, it’d be tedious for a large-scale operation. Consequently, a conveyer system ensures efficient and timely delivery of containers to and from the filling station.

Piston Filler Parts
Piston Filler Parts

Types of Piston Fillers

Based on Number of Heads

Here, we use the piston filler heads to classify the machine. Some common options include:

  • Single Head Piston Filler: A basic piston filler will ideally have a single filling head and limited to small scale production usage. With this piston filler type, you can only fill one container at a time.
Single Head Piston Filler
Single Head Piston Filler
  • Multi-Head Piston Filler: These piston fillers feature multiple filling heads allowing you to fill multiple containers simultaneously. Utilizing multiple heads allows you to increase your production rate per unit time ideal for high-volume production.
Multi-head Piston Filler
Multi-head Piston Filler

Based on Configuration

  • Inline Piston Filler: You can easily integrate an inline piston filler to your production line saving on space and installation unlike standalone fillers. They are capable of high-speed filling suitable for high-volume productions and typically feature multiple filling heads.
Inline Piston Filler
Inline Piston Filler
  • Rotary Piston Fillers: Utilize a rotary platform that indexes containers through the filling process in an integrated rotary filling line. The rotary configuration allows for quick succession between multiple operations suitable for large-scale operations.
Rotary Piston Filler
Rotary Piston Filler

Based on Operation

When identifying piston fillers based on how they operate, you may encounter:

  • Overflow Piston Fillers: These piston fillers ensure precise volume control during filling operations. They allow product overflow back into the reservoir thereby maintaining a consistent fill level. Upon attaining the desired fill volume, the piston ascends redirecting the excess product to the reservoir minimizing wastage.
An Overflow Piston Filler
An Overflow Piston Filler
  • Servo-Driven Piston Fillers: This type utilizes servo motors in the control of piston movement to high precision levels while offering programmable filling parameters. Consequently, movement is continuously smooth and accurate while offering high flexibility in term of customization.
Servo Driven Piston Filler
Servo Driven Piston Filler
  • Check Valve Piston Fillers: These implement a check valve system to control product flow into and out of the filling cylinder. The piston’s down movement creates a vacuum drawing the product into the cylinder via an intake check valve. Upward movement closes the intake check valve, preventing product backflow into the supply line while pushing it out for filling.
Check Valve Piston Filler Work Principle
Check Valve Piston Filler Work Principle
  • Volumetric Piston Fillers: Here, the piston filler uses positive displacement piston mechanism. The product volume drawn by the piston’s down movement is regulated by piston diameter and stroke length.
Volumetric Piston Filler Work Principle
Volumetric Piston Filler Work Principle

What to Consider When Purchasing a Piston Filler

It is pivotal to evaluate several factors when faced with a purchase decision for a piston filler suitable for your industrial application. As a result, your selection fits perfectly in your set-up allowing you to achieve your production goals.

  • Product Viscosity: Piston fillers can package semi-liquids, liquids, pastes and creams. Since these products exhibit different consistencies, it follows that certain features in the piston filler may be uniquely different.
  • Filling Accuracy: Whichever filler you select should offer you the right precision and consistency to meet your particular production needs.
  • Container Features: There are several container types available for filling including jars, bottles, and pouches. These containers come in different shapes and sizes and may require varying nozzle and head designs. It is necessary for your piston filler to accommodate the container shape you have.
  • Production Speed: Pouch fillers with multiple heads will fill more units per unit time than those with a single head. Therefore, the former will be more efficient in large production environments as opposed to the latter.
  • Automation: Operation of piston fillers involves multiple operations like loading containers, filling, capping, labelling and boxing. These can be done manually or automated with the latter achieving higher production efficiency in terms of speed and output.

Uses of a Piston Filler

The benefits derived from utilizing a piston filler in your industrial operations have seen its implementation across industries. Their precise fill volume control, high operational speeds, and adaptability allows for their use in the following instances:

  • The making of food substances and beverages is incomplete without packaging them in containers thanks to piston fillers.
  • Detergents, disinfectants and pesticides produced in chemical industries for household and agricultural usage are packaged using these machines.
  • The myriad of beauty product available in the market ranging from creams and lotions are ideally filled using piston fillers.
  • Specialized industrial products such as automotive fluids, lubricants, paints and coatings are all filled in their packaging materials by piston fillers.
  • The medical and pharmaceutical industry utilizes piston fillers in filling ampules, vials and bottles with medication topical solutions and ointments.

Conclusion

Using a piston filler reliably, efficiently, and accurately provides a solution to filling containers with various products. Regardless of the shape or size, you can fill pouches, bottles and jars to high precision by using this machine.

More resources:

Toothpaste Packaging – Source: JOCHAMP

Ointment Tube Filling – Source: JOCHAMP

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