January 29, 2014

4 Min Read
Pharmaceutical packaging in a powerful design

ESS Technologies, Inc. (www.ess technologies.com), a packaging machinery manufacturer located in Blacksburg, VA, that specializes in turnkey line integration, introduced an innovative servo bottle filling and capping machine to the market in 2004. With this new machine development, ESS Technologies demonstrates its extensive experience in the industry and its commitment to state-of-the-art technology. The new MB120 monobloc unit meters in bottles, fills them and screws on the cap. Combining the filling and capping process into a single, clean-balcony-design machine makes this system very attractive to pharmaceutical and cosmetic customers. "The clean-balcony design, along with the ACOPOS™ servo drives from B&R Industrial Automation Corp. [www.br-automation.com] makes this a perfect fit for these applications," says Kevin Browne, president of ESS Technologies. Other unique features include quick size changes, good visibility for the operator and feedback controls from a checkweigher for automatic fill-volume adjustment. Another unique feature of the new ESS MB120 monobloc filler/capper is the ability of the servo filling system to do "profile filling" of irregular-shaped containers.

The machine application, a software development tool from B&R Automation Studio, is used for all of these automation tasks and allows for simple, integrated control between all machine functions. It is quite simple to configure a wide range of products, requiring minimum tool changes, with the user-friendly graphic interface.

Besides the integrated control architecture, the new MB120 monobloc's stainless-steel balcony design allows for easy cleaning and maintenance. With a footprint of only 6 ft long by 5 ft wide, the machine also saves precious floorspace. Designed and built in the U.S. to metric standards, the MB120 monobloc is also built to U.S. Food and Drug Administration standards. The machine is available in single and dual pitch, depending on the speed requirements of the customer, as well as with various filling systems. From 2-mL vials used in hospitals to 16-oz bottles found in drugstores, the MB120 monobloc fills and caps a wide variety of containers.

During the packaging process, bottles are fed into the machine via a servo-driven infeed conveyor that runs continuously through the machine. The bottles enter a servo-driven timing screw, which controls the position of the bottles for the filling process. Once the bottles are on pitch in the timing screw, servo-driven fill nozzles move vertically down into the bottles, and filling pumps, which are also servo-driven, meter product into the bottles for accurate profile filling. This process is important to avoid splashing, as fluids have different consistencies, and bottles have different shapes and sizes. The HMI allows the operator to adjust the positions of the pump, the nozzle and the speeds on the screen. The machine offers complete flexibility with regard to the filling process and speed.

As the filled bottles leave the filling area via the continuous infeed conveyor, the timing screw indexes the next group of bottles into the machine. The filled bottles are then fed into the capping starwheel. A dual-pitch machine caps two bottles at a time, while a single-pitch unit caps one bottle. A centrifugal sorter feeds the caps, orients them, releases the clamps and pretorques the caps onto the bottles. The next station of the packaging process tightens the caps with constant, accurate torque, using mechanically controlled magnetic clutches. Once the caps are screwed onto the bottles, the finished bottles discharge from the turret, leaving the machine via an exit conveyor.

The machine can run up to 120 bottles/min, depending on the size of the bottle and the consistency of the product.

The machine control system was developed by B&R USA's partner, Integrated Motion, Inc. (www.integratedmotion.com), according to the specifications of ESS Technologies, including control architecture, machine sequence of operation, programmable-logic controller and the operator interface. "What makes the machine unique is the highly integrated control system, including the networking of the drives, CAN interface, etcetera," says Jim Mullins, vp of engineering for Integrated Motion. "Another cost advantage to the customer is the reduced wiring. Additionally, the B&R X67 system simplifies wiring the sensors and solenoids. This is a simple machine operation with powerful performance."

Says Browne, "ESS chose Integrated Motion and B&R controls because of the flexibility of the system, along with the excellent local support of Integrated Motion. It was very important for the company to exhibit the machine at the PMMI Show in Chicago in November 2004. The machine ran very well at the show and was well received by our customers and other visitors at the show." When asked if he would recommend the B&R solution, Browne answered with a simple, "yes."


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