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Accuracy improved in auger filling

A push for improved accuracy is what recently led Indianapolis-based Servaas Laboratories to replace an older model volumetric filler with a rotary powder filler.

Cans are filled continuously by the servo-driven twin-auger filler.
Cans are filled continuously by the servo-driven twin-auger filler.

Supplied by Spee-Dee Packaging Machinery, the filler ensures accurate fills of the powder cleanser ,which is critical to upholding the solid brand reputation Bar Keepers Friend has earned for more than 130 years.

Its story begins in 1882 when an Indianapolis chemist noticed how clean and shiny his tarnished pot was after cooking rhubarb. Using an active ingredient that’s found in the plant, he formulated a talcum-smooth cleanser and sold it to the city’s taverns. So pleased were his customers with how well it worked on bar fixtures, the product was dubbed the Bar Keepers Friend. Today, every container of Bar Keepers Friend is still formulated and filled in Indianapolis – although the process is much more automated than it was back in the late 1800s.

The process begins by gluing three strips of cardboard together and forming them into tubes measuring 2-7/8” in diameter. From there the tubes are cut to one of three sizes in whcih Bar Keepers Friend is available: 12-, 15- or 21-oz cans. Also applied is the appropriate label. Then a conveyor system moves the cans along a path that allows the labels’ adhesive to cure. Formed into a single-file line, caps are automatically applied to the bottom of the cans. Guiding along the single-lane conveyor then flips the cans right-side up, where they accumulate on a large roller conveyor. From there, they again get funneled down into a single lane in preparation for filling.

A conveyor moves the cans into the filling room, where they enter the rotary powder filler. The cleanser is formulated and manufactured on site, mixing in two-ton batches at a time. Bucket conveyors bring the powder cleanser up into a large holding tank, where it is then moved into the hoppers for filling.

A timing screw is used to create the proper spacing between containers. The servo timing screw is electronically synchronized with the infeed star wheel that transfers the containers from the infeed conveyor to the filler turret. As the cans are transferred, they ride up an inclined rail that compresses the can against one of the 18 sets of container adapters and funnels. Between the adapters and funnels are flexible urethane bellows that provide compression and a positive, dust tight seal without damaging the top of the composite cans.

The cans are filled continuously by the servo-driven twin-auger filler. Containers are then vibrated to settle the product and create head space for the cap. Containers are removed from the turret by the outfeed star and are placed back on a single lane conveyor where they transition to the integrated Spee-Dee checkweigher, which automatically compensates for trends in the product bulk density by increasing or decreasing the RPM of the twin auger filler.

Filled cans then travel to a second capping machine, where friction-fit steel ends are applied lids and a bar-code date is imprinted. After a final inspection is performed, cans move to the packaging station, where they are boxed and prepped for shipping. Product is shipped to distributors and retailers five days a week.

“The reason why we needed to make a change is that we were having issues with accuracy,” says Ryan Miller, VP engineering, Servaas Laboratories. “It was a volumetric filler, and being volumetric you can only be so accurate. And with a powder product like ours, you’re going to have density changes due to humidity, and that affects fill rates. We were definitely looking for an upgraded filling system.”

Servaas Laboratories began talking to Spee-Dee in 2013, eventually purchasing the new Rotary powder filler in late 2014. It was installed and operational in spring 2015.

One of the challenging aspects of this application was the corrosive nature of the powder. Rick Chrzan, regional sales, Spee-Dee Packaging Machinery, said adjustments were made to the inbound and outbound conveyor system, as well as adding dust containment measures to accommodate the corrosiveness of the cleanser. Additionally, Chrzan said the Spee-Dee filler was an attractive choice to Servaas Laboratories because it could perform seamless changeovers for different can sizes, achieve fast fill rates of more than 200/min. Also, the filler’s upper funnels attach to the machine by way of magnetics rather than the fasteners most commonly used in such machines. The fasteners are prone to corrosion from the cleanser, which is why Miller is happy to be rid of them.

“What really locked it in was when we saw this machine at PACK EXPO. They had gotten rid of a lot of mechanical factors within the machine, such as how you do your tool-changes, which we liked. And our product is very abusive on anything threaded, so removing threaded fasteners is a plus,” Miller said. “Another reason we went with Spee-Dee is that we liked what their engineering philosophy was; they really thought through things with this machine. There are a lot of good filling companies out there, but that was the thing that really put them over the top; I liked their ideas and the engineering behind it like not having threaded components in the filling area.”

One changeover a week is typical, says Miller. The filler runs more than 40 hours weekly and fills on average about 60,000 cans a day. The system undergoes a thorough cleaning weekly.

“We had a couple little glitchy things right after we installed it, but Spee-Dee was great at handling that,” Miller said. “Their engineering is good; their service tech guys are knowledgeable. They’re a good company and I’m happy with how my filler is working.”

“I think Ryan appreciates the partnership and relationship that he has with us,” Chrzan says. “A lot of other companies will sell a filler and be done with it. But his product was a bit more challenging. He was happy to have us as a partner, and that’s how we treat all our customers. We’re with them for the long haul and work to ensure all their requirements are met.”

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