Every industry that uses packaging machinery will have certain items or components that are routinely seen in packaging equipment for that industry. For example, packaging lines for the Food Industry will almost always include some type of container cleaning machine to protect against product contamination. The pharmaceutical industry will usually include some type of neck band, foil seal or other guard against product tampering. The Distilled Spirits, or Liquor Industry, also has a number of routine and not so routine features that are likely to recur in the packaging machinery used for these products.
Just like the products in the Food Industry, distilled spirits will be ingested by humans. When this is the case, container cleaning equipment will be employed to remove dust, debris and other contaminants from bottles before they are filled. Contaminants may linger from the production of the bottle or they may be collected during transport or even storage of the containers. Bottle cleaning machines can use clean air, water or some other solution to rinse the debris from the bottles. Some of these machines will invert the bottle over a rinse basin to wash away contaminants. Others, especially where the bottles can not easily be inverted, will use special nozzles that will first rinse the bottle, then vacuum the debris into a waste reservoir. Whether inverted or remaining on the power conveyors, once rinsed the clean bottles will then move directly to the filling machine to receive product and avoid the possibility of collecting additional contaminants.
POWER CONVEYOR SYSTEMS
For distilled spirits that are packaged on a fully automatic bottling line, the power conveyor system will normally include anti-static rails and anti-static conveyor belting. Given that alcohol can be flammable, the anti-static components of the conveyor system protect against sparking or otherwise igniting product – or even the fumes or vapors from the product – during the packaging process. These two conveyor components, and other general components discussed below, simply ensure the safety of the operators, product and machinery while packaging distilled spirits or liquors.
One of two types of filling machine will normally be used for distilled spirits. The first is an overflow filling machine. This type of liquid filler has the advantage of a consistent, level fill on each and every bottle, even if the interior volume of the individual bottles vary slightly. For clear glass bottles or other clear containers, the overflow filler offers the advantage of a pleasing shelf appearance. However, distilled spirits must meet certain requirements for alcohol by volume. The disadvantage of the overflow filling machine is that the burden of accuracy moves from the manufacturer of the packaging machine to the manufacturer of the bottle. The overflow filler will reach the same level even if large discrepancies exist in interior volume from one bottle to another.
Gravity filling machines offer an alternative to the overflow filling machine for packagers of distilled spirits. Gravity fillers use a time based volumetric fill but sacrifice the aesthetic, level fill offered by the overflow filler. However, in the distilled spirits industry, the volumetric fill will often times trump the consistent, level fill, especially where clear containers are not used.
GENERAL ATTRIBUTES OF THE PACKAGING LINE
Packaging equipment for distilled spirits will be manufactured with intrinsically safe components and control panels. In some cases, machinery may be built as Class I, Div I, or explosion proof equipment. Again, given that alcohol can be flammable, all precautions are taken to avoid sparks, flames and/or vapors from igniting. Along the same lines, control panels for filling machines and other packaging machines can be manufactured to function remotely, removing the electronic components from the fumes and vapors that may cause a spark at the point of filling.
Of course, just like in any industry, no two packaging lines will be the same. Differences in products, packages, production demands and simple packager preference will help to dictate which packaging machines will be used on any given line. Though overflow fillers and gravity filling machines will likely be used for distilled spirits, even these fillers will differ in many ways from one project to the next. Finding the ideal solution for packaging any distilled spirit requires an in-depth analysis of the product, package, production and desires on a case-by-case basis.