Tube Feeding Added To Combo Feeder

The Elizabeth Companies ( has added a tube feeder distribution format to its Combo Feeder solution. The “Quad-Combo” Feeder incorporates tube filling, brush box, static chute, and vibrating ramp formats on a common base. For the tube filling, the Quad-Combo is compatible with and can reuse existing SimTap feeder cassettes.
The solution responds to the preferences of many customers for tube filling, says Kenneth Spiegel, vice president of operations, Elizabeth Carbide Die Co.
“The Quad-Combo Feeder really completes our Combo Feeder offering. Tube feeders have been widely accepted in the U.S. market, where they are typically advantageous for intermittent machines and filling of oversized cavities. When filling oversized alu blister cavities, you need a mechanism that releases the tablets one by one to avoid multiple tabs in a cavity,” Spiegel says.
A SimTap tube feeder cassette is one feeder format option in the Quad-Feeder from Elizabeth Cos. A new configuration puts drives and controls in a separate box (shown with touch screen display) to reduce the weight of the mobile carriage and improve cycle times.
“Customers can now receive the benefits of tube filling and experience the advantages (of the other formats) as well on a single platform,” Spiegel adds.
The extended system was driven by a customer now beta testing it in one installation. The customer wanted to continue to use a legacy SimTap feeder in addition to the other distribution formats for new products, Spiegel says.
“Tube feeders do not necessarily provide an advantage in production rates and fill accuracy. A well-designed dedicated chute or vibrating ramp feeder—that is correctly positioned—will run as efficiently as a tube feeder and provide the leverage of low-cost format change parts as compared to tube feeder cassettes,” he says.
In the Combo Feeder and the Quad-Combo Feeder, mechanical drive systems and controls are incorporated in a common base, simplifying format changeovers. Switches that would take hours when dedicated feeder-base systems have to be removed can be accomplished in minutes.
Quick-release change parts support rapid set up. Through a touch screen with numerical read outs, the operator controls vertical and lateral tool positioning and motor run speeds.
“The control system recipes in the Combo Feeder ensure that the best positioning is easily reproducible on all future runs,” Spiegel says.
The Combo Feeder family addresses the small batch requirements of customers such as contract packagers and generic companies, says Scott Koehler, director of sales and marketing, The Elizabeth Companies.
“Using the preprogrammed recipes within the Combo Feeder, the user can quickly and precisely set-up the feeder when installing one of the four available feeding formats. Ramp-up to full production speeds is accomplished relatively quickly, an important concern as lot sizes decrease and product changeover increases in frequency,” Koehler adds.
Elizabeth has enhanced the latest model of the Combo Feeder and Quad-Feeder to support faster feeding when a mobile carriage is used. With the addition of a mobile carriage, the Quad Combo is effective on both continuous and intermittent blister lines.
In the early model, motor drives for all the feeders, the support mechanism for vertical and lateral adjustments, and the touch screen control system were all contained in a heavy mechanism sitting on top of the carriage slide. The new configuration segregates the components in two parts, placing the heavier frame work and drive mechanisms in a static base behind the front plate. The movable front plate with feeder mounting surface moves in sync with the blister web and is rendered significantly lighter, Spiegel says.
“The weight of the mechanism was limiting the cycle speeds. With this enhancement, we can hit cycle speeds into the forties, which takes advantage of the more modern intermittent motion machines that achieve a maximum of 50 cycles per minute,” he adds.
The mobile carriage serves different functions depending on the feeder format and blister machine type. Chute, brush box, and vibrating ramp formats are inherently designed to work with a continuous-motion machine but can be used with intermittent-motion machines with the addition of a mobile carriage. On an intermittent-motion machine, where the web indexes to a stop, the mobile carriage is used with these formats to recreate continuous relative movement between the bottom of the feeder and the advance of the web. “When the PVC stops moving, the feeder retracks and drops tabs into the blister,” Spiegel says.
Tube feeders are inherently designed to drop pills to a static web on an intermittent-motion machine. For tube feeding on a continuous-motion machine, the mobile carriage synchronizes the advance of the tube feeder to the speed of the web, artificially creating relative static positioning between the feeder and the web, he adds. 
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