At the Santa Ana CA plant of McKesson Water Products Co. the centerpiece of a plant-wide modernization effort is a brand new water bottling line running half- 1- and 1.5-L bottles of polyethylene terephthalate. These bottle sizes were formerly filled for McKesson by contract packagers. By bringing the production in-house McKesson gains significant cost savings and better inventory control. The new line handles half-L bottles at 300/min 1-L at 240 and 1.5-L at 200/min. The front half of this impressive operation from bulk depalletizing to labeling is anchored by a filler and capper that share the same drive and mounting in a monoblock. The two machines are enclosed in a clear module overpressurized with filtered air that keeps contaminants away from the water and its container. In most water bottling plants it's common to have a completely walled-off and overpressurized room for filling but at McKesson there wasn't room for such an approach. This modular enclosure was the perfect solution. "It's handy in a small setting" says Dave Mateus of Mateus Sales (Brea CA) who represents many of the machinery manufacturers who contributed to the line and who assisted in line layout and installation. Inside this enclosure is a 38-valve gravity filler from Fogg (Holland MI) and a 12-station rotary capper from Alcoa (Indianapolis IN). Just outside is the other key component in the capping picture: a cap feeder/orienter from Aidlin Automation (Sarasota FL) that delivers the push/pull "sports cap" to the capper. Creative Packaging (Buffalo Grove IL) supplies the two-piece injection-molded polypropylene caps. "This was the first Alcoa machine capable of applying a sports cap" says Bruce Potter project engineer at McKesson. "The real trick to that cap is getting it oriented and Aidlin's device does that very efficiently." Aidlin calls its machine a "three-in-one solution" because in one self-contained unit it holds caps in a bulk hopper elevates them and orients them. It's capable of feeding caps at speeds as high as 2/min which is why Aidlin's Roy Hoak calls it "the Ferrari of feeders." McKesson's speed requirements of course are more modest than that. More significant to McKesson is Aidlin's guarantee that 100% of caps handled will be properly oriented. "Caps fall off or stay on the elevator belt based on the cap's center of gravity" explains Hoak. The elevator belt Hoak refers to is about three feet across and is lined with horizontal "shelves" that protrude out from the belt about 1". The caps drop onto these shelves as the belt rotates past the bulk hopper. If a cap is resting open side out so the spout and clear overcap are up against the belt it will stay on the shelf all the way to the top of the machine where caps leave the shelves and drop off into the infeed chute. However if a cap is sitting on a shelf open side in so that the opening is touching the elevator belt the cap's center of gravity will cause it to drop from its shelf before it reaches the point where caps drop into the infeed chute.