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Capsule and liquid filling lines ease growing pains

Sports nutrition and supplement products manufacturer and co-packer All American Pharmaceutical eases growing pains with new state-of-the art capsule and liquid filling lines.
FILED IN:  Machinery  > Filling/sealing  > Capping

Related video: Flexible filling line handles beverages at 80 bottles/min

When you hold in your hands the patent on an all-natural supplement product that studies show could provide relief for health conditions as varied and devastating as Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and perhaps even cancer, company growth is an inevitable side effect. Since 1984, Billings, MT-based All American Pharmaceutical & Natural Foods Corp. has been developing and manufacturing sports nutrition and dietary supplement products based on its Kre-Alkalyn® formulation, which it believes may be just such a miracle drug.

All American’s Kre-Alkalyn is a stable form of the compound creatine, often used by athletes and bodybuilders as a supplement to enhance athletic performance and build lean body mass. With its second product, Kre-Celazine®, the company put Kre-Alkalyn’s pain-lowering capabilities to work, launching a supplement specifically to address joint flexibility and pain relief—without side effects. Currently studies are underway to gauge the effectiveness of All American’s products in relieving a range of inflammation-related health conditions—with intriguing results, confides the company’s vice president of sales and marketing, Joe Archer.

With the popularity of its Kre-Alkalyn and Kre-Celazine-based products, which it manufactures and co-packs for private-label customers globally in addition to other, related products, All American has already experienced impressive growth. Since January 2007, the company has installed two state-of-the art packaging lines, provided entirely by CVC Technologies (www.cvcusa.com), and is in the process of specifying two more CVC lines.

In selecting a supplier for its two new lines—one a capsule/tablet filler, the other a liquid filler—All American first needed to find a company that could provide highly flexible equipment. All American offers its private-label customers a range of package sizes and styles, as well as a variety of product options. “We try to be very diversified for our customers,” Archer says. “One of the problems in this industry that our customers deal with is that manufacturers will carve out their niche, and that’s all they want to do. We try and do it all because our clients need that and demand that.”

Second, All American required a supplier that could provide equipment configured and integrated specifically for its needs. “You want your lines to run very smoothly, otherwise it will hinder your sales,” Archer says. “So picking lines that had everything integrated and utilizing one company was very beneficial for our organization.”

The new equipment was added to both accommodate new growth, as well replace outdated equipment. But Archer says the company has held onto some of its existing semi-automated machinery so that it can meet the needs of short-run customers. “Some co-packers, for example in the capsule filling industry, don’t even want to talk to you if you aren’t running a million to five million capsules,” he explains. “We will run 25,000 and even 10,000, depending on the product, to help startup companies get their product on the market without a huge investment.”

Capsule line is versatile

The first new line, installed in January 2007, was for capsule/tablet filling. It accommodates bottle sizes from 50 to 500 cc and is used to package everything from vitamins to herbs to sports nutrition supplements. On the day of Packaging World’s visit, the line was running a 60-capsule container of Kre-Alkalyn EFX for All American EFX, Bakersfield, CA. (The former marketing provider for All American Pharmaceutical, All American EFX bought the brand in 2003.)

The line is fully automated, from desiccant filling to shrink-band labeling/sealing, with equipment either manufactured or specified by CVC. The line is equipped with PLC controls from Panasonic (www.pewa.panasonic.com), which All American’s director of plant operations, Jim Paul, says make the line “very easy to program.” He adds, “We can use the touchscreen to program the parameters for one machine, and the system will setup everything else down the line.”

The line leads off with a CVC 1103 pouch desiccant inserter that drops 1⁄4-oz sachets into bottles as they pass under the machine, carried by a conveyor fed manually with empty bottles. The second stop for bottles is the counter/filler, a CVC 1220 Challenger, co-manufactured by CVC and Cremer (www.cremer.com). The machine can handle capsules, tablets, and soft gels in both standard- and irregular-shaped bottles at up to 60 bottles/min. Following filling, a CVC 1117 cottoner converts cotton into preset lengths, folds the cotton coils, and inserts them into the bottles by means of a Festo (www.festo.com) air cylinder.

Bottles next receive a cap from a CVC 1204 in-line spindle capper and are then induction-sealed with a CVC 2000 induction sealer. The capped bottles are decorated using a CVC 300 pressure-sensitive wraparound labeler, which CVC manager of sales for the U.S. Devin Mears notes is unique due to its SelfSet™ software. The SelfSet system provides the optimum sensing position for every label length and for every container length or diameter, he explains. This eliminates the need to move the product or label sensors and reduces wrinkled or misfed labels. All American’s labeler also incorporates a hot-stamp coder that adds the lot number and expiration date to each label.

The last operation on the line is the application of a clear film sleeve over each bottle by way of a CVC 1180FB full-body banding system. The sleeves are used for product protection, as well as to provide the package with a polished look on-shelf. The banding system comprises a sleeve applicator from Marburg Industries (www.marburgind.com) and a shrink tunnel from an unnamed supplier. Finished bottles convey to an accumulation table, after which they are hand-packed into cartons that are then manually placed into corrugated cases.

According to Archer, after installing the capsule/tablet line, CVC provided one week of training for operators, along with two follow-up visits. “The change to the new equipment was painless with CVC,” he says. The line runs on-average at speeds to 100 bottles/min for a 30-tablet bottle, he adds, and is quick and easy to change over.

Fast filling with liquid line

The second new line at All American, a liquid-filling line for homeopathic and ready-to-drink sports and nutrition beverages and concentrates, was installed in August. With changeparts, the line can currently run bottle sizes from 16 to 32 oz; on the day of PW’s visit, it was a 16-oz, high-density polyethylene bottle of All American EFX Pure Liquid Amino Elite.

Other features ideal for All American’s needs include an all stainless-steel construction, heavy-duty conveyors, and a glass-enclosed chamber for filling and capping operations, notes Archer.

Bottles are fed manually onto the line, which starts with an eight-head piston filler, the servo-driven CVC 6036. Filling is followed by capping, done by a CVC 6034 pick-and-place chuck capper. Bottles then receive a p-s wraparound label by way of the CVC 300 label applicator with SelfSet. The last step is application of a clear film neck band, applied with the CVC 1108NB system, which includes a sleeve applicator and a heat tunnel from Marburg. The line operates at speeds to 80 bottles/min for a 4-oz fill, Archer relates.

As indicated, changeparts allow for an array of bottle sizes to be used, with line changeover taking approximately four hours. According to Paul, a production run must be at least 3,000 bottles to make it worthwhile for All American to change the line over.

Tenfold production increase

All American is extremely satisfied with the quality, vendor support, and uptime offered by its new CVC-supplied capsule/tablet and liquid filling lines. “Once we got these lines in place—set up and ready to go—that’s exactly what they did, they just ran,” Archer says. “The lines run so fast and finish production runs so quickly, it’s perfect from a sales standpoint.”

Archer adds that not only have the new lines increased All American’s packaging output tenfold, but they have also helped cut the company’s bottom line. “Labor costs on the new, fully automated lines are pennies on the bottle,” he says. “As a contract manufacturer, we run thousands of different formulas a year that come in all shapes, sizes, and viscosities. CVC built machines that fit all our needs.”

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