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Ultimate flexibility for scalable aseptic filling

For more than 30 years, Flexicon has been established as the preferred choice for aseptic liquid filling for GMP regulated industries, such as biotechnology and diagnostics

Flexicon’s products scale with your business. From the intuitive, easy-to-use design of our ergonomic pumpheads, through to the modular design of manual, semi and automatic systems, our products feature a grow-with-me concept to meet your fill/finish needs.

Our experience in engineering accurate and reliable bottle filling machine for sensitive fluids in GMP production and cleanroom environments, means we provide solutions to optimise your fill/finish processes.

As part of the Watson-Marlow Fluid Technology Group, Flexicon’s engineering is backed by a global network of specialist and technical support engineers, who can help optimise your complete development and filling process, wherever you are in the world.

At the heart of all our filling systems is the gentle pumping action of our peristaltic fillers, which ensure your valuable product is transferred without cross contamination or damage to viability and product quality.

Leveraging our expertise in peristaltic engineering has helped to optimise the performance of companies filling processes worldwide. Whether those companies are developing Advanced Therapy Medical Products (ATMP) or looking to quickly—and safely—scale-up their batch production, we can help develop a system tailored to your needs.

Whether you’re a newcomer to the world of liquid filling equipment or an experienced user looking to upgrade or change your production line, browsing websites and product catalogues in the search to source a suitable machine can be more than a little confusing.

Overflow or gravity machine? Piston or pump? Automatic, semi-automatic or manual? Hot or cold-filling? In-line or rotary filling? Off-the-shelf or turnkey? Fortunately, with so many choices out there you’re likely to find the ideal solution for your particular application – however, finding it requires that you do a bit of homework and adopt a systematic approach.

To simplify the process, you may find this guide to liquid filling equipment useful. It identifies key questions which will help you narrow down your search and focus only on those systems that meet your objectives.

The first question to ask is what product is being filled?

Not all liquids are the same. Some are free-flowing, others are very viscous. Some contain particulates or flammable ingredients, others are foamy whilst the viscosity of some products may change when the temperature changes. The important thing to remember is that type of liquid filling equipment that you choose has to be compatible with the product type. For example, a gravity filler is more suitable for thin products, piston fillers are a better option for thick products than overflow automatic liquid filling machine and bottom-up filling machines are used for foamy products.

Another key question to ask is what type of container is being filled?

In many instances, the type of container or bottle will dictate the type of filling technique and the more you know about the attributes of the container, the better. What material is it made from (e.g. glass, aluminium, plastic) and what are its dimensions and characteristics? This information is important because it will determine the optimum performance of the equipment and the best equipment type. For example, an automatic bottle filler which grabs a container from the side may not actually be the best option if your container is very wide and a top filler may not work if your container has an unusually-shaped cap or lid.

You need to ask how many containers do you want to fill every hour?

Knowing your production rate is also a crucial factor in your equipment selection.

A semi-automatic filling machine would be a cost-effective and reliable solution for smaller production runs like those in a laboratory or in a start-up venture, whilst an automatic filling machine with a sizeable conveyor is ideal for larger-scale operations with much higher production rates. For operations with very low production rates and no expansion plans such as a home brewing venture or small-scale home-made sauce business, a manual machine could fit the bill.

You also need to ask yourself, how do you want the final fill-level in your container or bottles to look?

Appearance does count, and different filling systems have different outcomes. For example, a liquid level machine will fill every container to the same specified level regardless of the volume of the product, making it a preferred product where uniformity is important. On the other hand, a volumetric filler will fill a container with the identical volume of liquid even when the fill levels may appear to be variable. Volumetric fillers generally cost more as they require specialized instruments for calibration, balance and timing.

Some of the types of liquid filling machines include:

gravity fed fillers (a good, cost-effective option for efficient volumetric filling especially for low viscosity and foamy liquids);

piston fillers which use a highly accurate volumetric filling technique, ideal for thick or highly viscous liquids. These are divided into two types, namely check-valve piston fillers and rotary valve piston fillers;

pump fillers which are very versatile and suitable for a wide range of liquids and viscosities

in-line filling machines (a cost-effective choice for filling containers in a line) which are suitable for those operations where different container sizes are involved; and

rotary filling machines (which are often much larger and more specialized) for faster speeds and higher production rates.

Another question is whether your filling equipment can be modified if your needs change?

It’s often not necessary to buy new equipment just because your business has expanded or you want to add new products or packaging to your line. An experienced manufacturer will have the knowledge and skills to advise whether your liquid filling system can be modified and will make recommendations to future-proof your investment.

Additionally, to maximize production efficiency, many are turning to high-capacity and more automated equipment that provides this flexibility. Still top of mind, though, are accuracy, minimizing product waste, reducing changeover times and simplifying sanitation. Liquid filling equipment providers are working to meet all these needs and more.When picking a specific 5 litre liquid filling machine, a good place to start is to know the exact characteristics of the liquid product. Is it a free-flowing liquid? This might work better with a timed-flow fill machine where the same volume of product is delivered each cycle. What if the product is more viscous? For that, a positive displacement liquid filler might be the way to go.

He explains that if a company is trying to dispense baby food into containers, Bosch would suggest servo-driven aseptic1 litre filling machine with full-metal pistons. This type of equipment helps address precision in filling a product that is highly viscous and particulate rich, but also avoids weight fluctuations or overfill issues.

Krones 6 head liquid filling machine are also designed with flexibility in mind, says Kraus. As an example, he cites some of the company’s filling equipment that can be adjusted automatically via the filling probe, which addresses improved automatization as well.

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