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Filling Machine for the Food Industry
 

Obviously, when you are talking about food, you are talking about clean. The type of filling machine MUST be easy to clean and must have a fluid path constructed of sanitary materials such as 316 stainless steel and food grade polymers. Threaded fluid connections area generally disallowed. The machines may be required to fill at high temperatures and have automatic cleaning capability. Your food products may also have additional sanitary requirements that are of a regulatory nature such as USDA for the meat and dairy food industries. Because some food grade requirements are less stringent than others, the construction strategies and therefore, the variability of costs between food grade machines can be great. It is therefore important to disclose ALL food products and the operating environment that will be run on the chosen filling machine. Our experienced and expert sales engineers can help you avoid the mistakes of buying too much or too little machine for your food grade applications.  After reviewing the various types of filling machines used in this industry below, you may click on any of your chosen machine's links which will take you to their production capacity selection pages.
 



(click to enlarge)
 Overflow Filling Machine for Thin Flowable Food Products


Generally speaking, if a food product is fairly thin and flowable with no particulates or particulates not exceeding 1/16" diameter in it, an Overflow Filling Machine would be the best economic choice.  Examples of these types of products would be hot filled syrups, barbeque sauce, salad dressings, etc. Please note that many products such as barbeque sauce and ketchup become fairly thin liquids when heated to their proper fill temperatures.  Since many of these products are sometimes filled in glass, the Overflow Filling Machine is the only practical filling machine that can be used.  The reason for this is that the Overflow Filling Machine is a "fill to level" filling machine which means that the product will always appear to have the same fill height in the container regardless of the manufacturing (and volumetric) variations that occur in glass.   The reason that particulates must be kept low in this type of filling machine is that they will have a tendency to clog up the overflow nozzle if the solid content is too high. An example of this might be juices with an extremely high pulp content. Essentially, once particulates enter the picture, a more expensive piston or pump filling machine would be required.

Click here for to see our Overflow Filling Machine Selection Guide by Daily Production.
 


(click to enlarge)  Piston Filling Machine for Thick or Particulate Food Products


Food products that are thick like heavy sauces and pastes or that have a high particulate content including large pieces of meat or vegetables like chunky salsas, require a filling machine with the necessary force and large enough fluid path to pass these products. A thick paste simply will not pass through an overflow filling machine and 1" pieces of tomato and onions will clog up overflow and gravity filling machine nozzles immediately. Therefore, the piston filler is used widely to handle these types of products. In fact, in the food filling business, it is probably the most common filling machine wth an excellent cost to performance profile although piston fillers are more costly than overflow fillers with similar outputs. These type of filling machines are fairly fast producers with typical outputs of 10 containers per minute per nozzle These machines can also be configured with jacketed product hoppers to maintain hot fill temperatures as well as rotary agitators to keep heavy particulates in proper suspension.  . It should be noted that while these machines are ideally suited to thick or chunky food products they are not well suited to thin flowable products as described in the Overflow Filling Machine description above. Although it is possible to fill thin products in a typical food piston filler, the large fluid path is prone to drips or leaks on thin products for the very same reason it is ideally designed for thick and chunky products. This types of filling machines are also very accurate providing a volumetric fill size that is precise to greater than 1% of volume.
 


(click to enlarge) Net Weigh Filling Machine for High Value or Bulk Food Products


Some expensive food products or commodity products with low margins that are filled in bulk are filled by weight either because of economics or because of the way the product is normally sold. A fine commodity example of this is edible oil that when filled in bulk, it is important for the producer to not give away any extra product.  In the case of edible oil, the containers are usually imprecise vessels and moreover, the product volume varies with ambient temperature. These factors make volumetric filling of edible oil impractical in bulk; the solution is a Net Weigh Filling Machine. Another example is high value extracts and flavorings that are normally sold by weight for obvious reasons.  The Net Weigh Filling Machine is very accurate but are typically slower speed and often reserved for the realm of bulk filling. The delivery method of the products are also either by gravity or by pump which means that these products typically are free flowing in nature with few if any particulates. The Net Weigh Filling Machine is well understood and valuable in circumstances described above but they are not as prevalent the marketplace (other than bulk filling) owing to their higher capital cost and fairly low output.
 


(click to enlarge) Servo Pump Filling Machine for Almost All Food Products!


The Servo Pump Filling Machine is an extremely flexible, easy to use and easy to clean filling machine in a class of its own which can fill almost any food grade product you can imagine. Because it can handle an extremely wide range of viscosities and can pass particulates up to 3/4" diameter without chopping, it can be used to fill Juices, salsas, jellys and jams, salad dressings , sauces and some pastes.  This filling machine shines because of its ease of cleaning and it makes it very convenient for producers that have many different flavors or products to produce in one day. These filling machines have been successfully installed in USDA plants because of their cleanability. A computer controlled pump dedicated to each filling nozzle allows for total programmatic control of all filling parameters with unlimited fill sizes, high volumetric accuracy and the ability to deliver almost any thick, thin, particulated or non particulated sanitary product into almost any container. This type of filling machine is considered a contract packager's dream. 

As you would surmise,  all of this flexibility comes at a high capital cost.  Each servo controlled pump/nozzle combination typically costs over $10,000 per nozzle.  However, this machine pays for itself where the producer has many food products to produce in small batches; the short cleaning time and nearly instantaneous setup time of operating parameters makes it possible for the producer to fill many unrelated product batches in the same day and be very responsive to his or her customers.

 


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