Most likely overlooked by passersby to the All-Fill booth, but an improvement that the company has been working on for the last year that has been shown to improve rotary auger filling speeds for free-flow products from 10% to 20% is its custom Eccentric Funnel Design process.
At PACK EXPO Las Vegas, All-Fill was showing one of its new funnel designs on a high-speed auger filling line, “but it’s one of those things that I feel goes unnoticed because you don’t often think about how a funnel can be better until it’s a problem,” shares Chad Martin, Engineering Manager for All-Fill.
According Martin, one persistent issue with free-flowing products has been their tendency to bridge, or basically clog, an auger filler funnel due to the way the product is nested or if it becomes a mass that can’t fit through the funnel’s hole. Says Martin, “Whenever customers run something like a whole peppercorn or rolled oats through one of our funnels on a rotary auger filler at high speeds, if they get bridging, they have to stop the process entirely or slow the system down so that there aren’t any issues.”
To resolve this challenge, All-Fill has been leveraging additive, or 3D, printing technology to explore different funnel designs that optimize flows, thereby increasing the speed and efficiency of its machines. Traditionally funnel designs comprise a cone that filters down to a straight pipe at the bottom. With its Eccentric Funnel Design, the company has been able to design new funnels customized to specific products with a pipe that is offset from the cone in an engineering and production process that takes hours, rather than days.
The process to design a new funnel involves fine-tuning the custom Eccentric Funnel Design using rapid 3D prototyping. Once a more-efficient design is achieved, All-Fill manufactures the funnel in its sheet metal shop using food contact-safe stainless steel. While Martin says the company has been designing the funnels on a case-by-case basis, in the process, it has been gathering knowledge on which applications can use the technology. “We want to add it as part of our standard tooling set for products that can benefit from it,” he says.
Sharing an example of a successful retrofit, Martin recalls how All-Fill designed a new funnel for a customer filling ant poison. With the new design, All-Fill was able to increase the filling speed by one cycle per minute. PW