More Questions and Answers
Q: How do I choose the best bulk bag filler for my needs?
A: David Boger, Flexicon, says:
As bulk bag use has exploded, so has the variety of bulk bag filling machines, complicating the task of identifying the best one for your specific needs. To streamline the process, start by comparing how every model you're considering measures up to your six most important application parameters:
1. Will the filler handle your maximum capacity?
In most cases, buying a filler with higher capacity than you now need will be less costly than replacing a filler you outgrow, so anticipate maximum capacity requirements during the useful life of your filler.
For the lowest-volume applications, a manually operated filler can be outfitted with manual fill-head height adjustment, a feed chute vent port for dust-free air displacement, an inflatable cuff to seal the bag inlet spout, an inflator to expand the bag prior to filling, and a programmable scale system with flow-control valve for filling by weight.
You can avoid the cost of a scale system by placing the entire filler onto an all-purpose plant scale, providing the filler is properly equipped for in-plant mobility.
Adding a roller conveyor allows filled bags to be rolled out of the filling area for spout cinching while another bag is being filled. You can further reduce cycle times by adding a pallet dispenser.
Fillers are also available with fill heads that lower and pivot down to a vertical position, enabling the operator to connect the spout in several seconds while safely at floor level.
2. How ergonomic and efficient are the manual portions of the filler's operation?
How and where the operator attaches the bag straps to the filler hooks is critical. Does the filler move the hooks to the operator for fast, easy connections? If the hooks are stationary, are they accessible? Consider that the connection points of a conventional filler are often beyond the reach of most operators at floor level. Adding the height of a roller conveyor puts the connection points for bulk bags 5 feet (152 centimeters) in height at approximately 8 feet (244 centimeters) above the floor. Standing on a platform, ladder, or roller conveyor while straining to reach overhead spout-connection points can increase fatigue and the potential for injury while limiting capacity.
3. Is dust fully contained?
Even the most basic filler is likely to be equipped with an inflatable spout seal to hold the bag spout firmly in place during filling. However, not every fill head is vented to a dust collector to filter displaced air and dust and to vacuum ambient dust in the operator's vicinity during disconnection and cinching.
4. Can the filler multitask?
If your plant fills drums, boxes, or other containers as well as bulk bags, you can choose a multifunction filler to undercut the cost of separate equipment and reduce the amount of floor space required. Changeovers between different containers can generally be accomplished in minutes if the unit is equipped with a swing-arm-mounted chute.
5. Will the filler match your feed source?
High-capacity semiautomated or fully automated fillers require high-capacity feeding systems that are typically automated and feed material into the filler by gravity or a metering device.
The ability to gravity-feed material depends on the material's flow characteristics and whether a material storage vessel can be located above the filler. The more free-flowing the material is, the more accurately its flow can be varied (down to a dribble-feed rate) to achieve accurate fill weights.
For non-free-flowing materials, a metered feeding system is required to feed the filler accurately and consistently. Metering systems can include a flexible screw conveyor, screw feeder, rigid auger, drag disk, bucket elevator, rotary airlock valve, or other device.
6. Does the filler meet your cleanliness requirement?
Although all fillers can be constructed of stainless steel with ground and polished welds, their designs can preclude sanitizing according to government standards. If your application must meet sanitary requirements, your choices should be limited to designs that are accepted by the USDA Dairy Grading Branch or other agencies with which you must, or elect to, comply.
While the numerous available bag filler options can complicate the selection process, they can also yield a highly efficient and cost-effective solution to any given filling problem, providing that you take fundamental steps to evaluate the equipment against your precise requirements.
Flexicon, Bethlehem, Pa., designs and manufactures bulk handling equipment and integrated plantwide systems that transport, discharge, fill, weigh, blend, deliver, and/or feed a broad range of powder and bulk solid materials.
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