Fowler Products Expansion Supports Advanced Bottling
Published: February 4th, 2013
Companies upgrading capping technology achieve quicker start ups with lines assembled and integrated in Athens, Georgia.
Fowler Products (www.fowlerproducts.com) has enhanced its factory acceptance testing (FAT) and training facility with a recent major renovation.
A refurbished 9,600 sq ft space features high-capacity lifting equipment for positioning large machine components, an infrastructure of utilities for integrated system testing, and a large meeting room with wireless Internet and other amenities.
Customers can use the upgraded facility for testing Fowler’s advanced bottle line technology and accomplish pre-installation testing of an entire production system for which Fowler provides the machinery and line integration.
“We are committed to providing the best possible setting in which to conduct FATs. Extensive thorough factory acceptance testing provides an opportunity for the buyer and the supplier to ensure the equipment is complete, matches the specifications, and can be installed and put into production with fewer surprises that can result in production start up delays,” says Don Cotney, president and general manager, Fowler Products.
Customers often use the FAT testing process to introduce operators and maintenance personnel to new equipment, says Andy Monroe, Fowler’s sales and marketing manager.
“Before the equipment arrives on site at their plant, they have the opportunity to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people who built the system, receiving first-hand experience, training, and advice on how the system operates. We’ve found this contributes to fast and effective adoption of the new filling/capping system,” Monroe says.
A division of Pro Mach, the Athens, Georgia- based company sells and assembles a range of machinery and systems for bottling lines.
Recent customers --Perrigo and Sandoz among them-- have upgraded bottle capping with Fowler model rotary chuck-style screw capping machines . Perrigo is packaging an OTC pain reliever in 30cc and 60cc round bottles using a ten-head Fowler CAS Series Automatic Screw Type Capper. Closures in flip-off cap and a two-piece, child-resistant CT cap formats are capped at 300 bottles per minute.
For Perrigo, Fowler integrated a cap delivery system with cap feeder, sorter and orienter , and conveyor, and a system for post-capping cap-and-bottle inspection and rejection.
“In this case, the customer was upgrading existing in-line capping technology where (linearly-conveyed) bottles pick up a cap out of a dispenser, and the caps are spun down with friction wheels.
“In chuck-style capping, you have greater accuracy in application, greater control of applied torque, and much greater accuracy in the number of cocked or missing caps,” Monroe says.
Rotary cappers in addition support much higher capping speeds of up to 1000 bottles per minute. “The downside is it is an investment in change parts—chucks, star wheels, guides—when you have different size bottles,” Monroe adds.
The magnetic clutch head technology used in the CAS Screw Capper will remain a reliable and repeatable standard for screw-on capping. Electronic head technology however is the best solution for higher requirement applications, according to a Fowler white paper.
In electronic screw cappers, Fowler offers the Fowler /Zalkin CAE Series Screw Type Electronic Bottle Capper. GlaxoSmithKline recently upgraded to the unit in an eight-head configuration for 240-per-minute capping of 2-piece CR and one piece non-CR caps, says Cotney.
In electronic capping, independently controlled servo motors drive the capping chuck on each head, replacing the belt-driven gear set used to rotate the capping heads and chucks in a magnetic clutch system.
With electronic capping, torque adjustments can be made through the operator interface without stopping production. Torque values are captured and recorded while the capper is in operation. Caps are handled more delicately and can be gently tightened with a slower rotation at the final stage.
“Cap orientation, application torque monitoring and reporting, screw cap profiling, expanded torque range, delicate cap handling, and aseptic packaging are all examples where magnetic clutch technology is either limited or simply incapable of performing satisfactorily,” the white paper says.
The CAE Series features a screw cap profiling solution custom designed by Fowler and Zalkin that remedies mis-engagement of cap and bottle threads. Besides controlling and measuring torque, the motor has positional capability, Cotney explains.
“We call this “intelligent capping.” If the thread start of the cap collides with the thread start of the bottle you can have a cocked cap situation. With the electronic head you sense the interference, back the head up a half turn until you no longer have the nose to nose presentation, change the position, then go forward and apply the closure,” Cotney says.
In upgrading to the CAE capper, Baxter Healthcare avoided a thread lock condition they were experiencing with soft plastic polypropylene caps and bottles where a high application torque threatened to damage the components.
For its line with Baxter Healthcare, Fowler brought sections of the client’s air conveyor transport for bottle feeding to the Athens plant. Bottles are fed to a Fowler-provided Perrier bottle rinser, to a Fogg filler, and on to a Fowler-supplied capping turret from Zalkin. Caps are fed to the CAE capper from a Fowler-supplied waterfall sorter.
“With this solution, they were able to efficiently move bottles from their transport system through the rinsing station and on to capping. It substantially shortened their start up time,” Cotney says.
With the facility upgrades, integration of other manufacturers' bottle delivery systems, filling systems, induction sealers, and check weathers with Fowler-supplied equipment will be more easily accomplished.
“Now we can offer the floor space, infrastructure, and utilities to assemble and test complete lines simulating as closely as possible the actual production conditions,” says Cotney.