The automatic bag filling machine is essential for pharmaceutical packaging equipment.
It automatically grips premade bags/pouches, fills them with the product, and seals them in a shelf-ready state.
In this guide, we will focus on fundamental aspects of a bag filling machine, starting with its uses, strengths, and weakness.
We will also look at the different types of automatic bag filling machine.
Finally, we look at the parts, how it works, and how to ensure you get the best machine.
Infusion bag filling machine
Uses of Automatic Bag Filling Machine
Bag filling machine
1. Filling Bags
This is the core function of an automatic bag filling machine.
In various industries, products are filled into smaller packages.
For instance, you can come by cereals or washing powder packed in 10 kg bags, 5 kg bags, 2 kg bags and so on.
This makes retailing products easier as customers can get the precise quantities they need.
The bag filling machine is what fills these products into the desired bags.
Automatic filling machines have the sealing feature, which is equally very important.
After the bag has been filled with the intended products, the machine seals it.
This sealing is a safety measure against unscrupulous businesspeople who may want to compromise quantity.
The seal also protects the quality of the products.
Usually, companies advice that customers should not buy products whose seals are broken.
As earlier discussed, automatic bag filling machines are also essential in weighing of products.
It ensures that the right quantities are filled into the packaging bags availed.
This helps in preventing losses in terms of over-packaging and helps to meet the exact needs of the customers.
Advantages of Automatic Bag Filling Machines
Soft bag filling machine
· Improved Efficiency
When you resort to package your products by hand, you will realize that it is a very tedious process.
This is also a time-consuming process that can be slow and inefficient.
By using automatic bagging and weighing systems, you are assured of efficiency.
This automatically translates into improved production.
The result is that you will be able to produce within the customers’ timelines because there are no delays in packaging.
· Increased Accuracy
When you use an automatic bagging machine, you will be reducing the possibilities of error.
When production is going on, it is in the best interest of the company to ensure that accuracy is achieved.
Filling the bags by manual labor will almost always lead to errors due to the unpredictability and irrational nature of man.
The bags could be inaccurately weighed or filled.
This would translate into undercharging or overcharging of customers, leading into losses.
Using the automatic bag filler protects you from such losses.
· Reduce Labor Charge
When you acquire an automatic bag filling machine, you will be able to cut on labor costs.
The need for employees to package your products is eliminated.
As such, employees will be available to undertake other functions.
· Reduced Chances of Injury
When you engage your employees in manually packaging your products, they are exposed to the products.
Some of these products can be harmful.
Also, some products are heavy and can cause accidental injuries if handled directly by the employees.
With the automatic bag filling machine, you are assured that such injuries and the resulting financial losses are minimized.
Disadvantages of Automatic Bag Filling Machine
Automatic bag filling machines are expensive.
Acquiring one will definitely cost the company quite some fortune in the short run.
However, in the long run, this will prove beneficial.
When not properly planned for, acquisition of this machine is likely to result in losses.
It can also be expensive in terms of maintenance and electric power consumption.
2. Requires Trained Personnel
Operating an automatic bag filling machine needs some know how.
This will mean that you will have to hire qualified personnel to operate it.
With trained personnel, you are assured of effective operation methods and maintenance when there is need.
This comes with cost implications as skilled labor usually translates into higher wages.
Manual Bag Filling Machine vs. Automatic Bag Filling Machine
Manual bag filling machines rely on human labor for effective operation.
This transcends all operations.
Section of bag filling – Photo courtesy: BAUSCH
It means you manually feed the preformed bags into the machine for filling and weighing.
Sealing and labeling are also done with the assistance of an employee.
This makes the filling process slow and ineffective.
As such, the output is relatively reduced compared to companies using automatic bag filling machines.
Operating this also becomes expensive as you will have to supplement the machine with physical labor.
Automatic bag filling machines are different.
There is automation at every level of production using this machine.
Automatic bag filling machines have conveyors on which the bags are travel.
These move the bags to the filling area.
There are also the vacuum bag loaders, grippers and suction pads.
These ensure that the bags are held in the right position for filling by the bag fillers.
A conveyor belt then moves the bags to seal bar which effectively seals the bag.
Through the conveyors again, they are moved to the cooling bar which cools and flattens the seals.
These depict automation in all fronts. As such, the demand for labor is reduced.
Automation also means an increase in production speed.
This reduces the turnaround time, signaling increased income for the industry.
Types of Automatic Bag Filling Machines
Depending on the needs and quality compliance in pharmaceutical packaging, you can choose from any of the following:
· Open Mouth Bag Fillers
These automatic bag filling machines are used to fill open mouth style bags.
They fill these bags with different products which are usually in different forms.
They can be powders, granules or seeds. In some instances, the products are in the form of pellets, rocks and even mulch.
These products are filled into the open mouth bags using the force of gravity or augers.
In some instances, conveyors are used. As the bags get filled, they are also weighed.
· Valve Bag Filling Machine
These automatic bag filling machines fill valve-type bags quickly and efficiently.
These bags are filled with powders or even granular products.
The machine’s spout usually gets inserted into and then gets enclosed by the bag opening.
As such, undesired effects such as dust emissions and even product spill are minimized.
The market offers about four different types of these valve bag filling machines.
These include air, auger, impeller and lastly gravity-fed machines.
These machines have the capability of filling paper bags.
They can also be used to fill plastic bags and poly-woven bags.
Some machines can fill these bags up to ranges of between 20-110 pounds.
This can be at an average speed of at least 24 bags per minute.
Valve machines are also used in industries including aggregate and stone industries.
They are also used in agricultural seed and feed industry, cement and concrete industries, among others.
· Bulk Bag Filling Machine
These big bag filling machines are usually made specifically for filling flexible intermediary bulk containers.
These are basically big bags.
These automatic bag filling machines have the capability of weighing and filling bags that are 100 to 1250 kg.
Bulk bag filling machines are usually preferred when filling granular and at times, powder materials.
· Small Weight Bag Filling Machine
These automatic bag filling machines are designed to fill small weight bags.
They mostly have both weighing and filling capabilities.
They are able to fill bags with products of as little weight measurements as a few milligrams and grams.
· Form-fill-seal (FFS) Bag Filling Machine
These are automatic bag filling machines that form a package.
They then fill it with either a wet or dry product.
After this, they seal it closed.
In most instances, FFS systems usually use flexible film to come up with the primary package.
This can either be a bag or a pouch.
However, both aseptic cartons and gable-top are also made in an FFS operation.
A number of blister packs also get produced using thermoform FFS machine.
Parts of Automatic Bag Filling Machine
Some of the main parts of an automatic bag filling machine include:
Bag filling machine
· Touchscreen User Interface
The automatic bag filling machine usually has a screen that acts as a control panel for all the operations of the machine.
It gives the operator an interface on which to “instruct” the machine from.
On the interface, it is also possible to detect mechanical issues and production/packaging trends.
This makes it easier to address such issues for effective operation.
· Bag feeding roller
This conveys bags to the machine.
It does this after the bags have been loaded manually by an operator.
· Proximity sensor
This detects the bag when it moves closer to it, enabling the vacuum loader to pick it.
· Vacuum bag loader
Immediately the proximity sensor detects the presence of a bag, the bags are picked up by the vacuum bag loader.
These usually hold the bag as it moves through the rotary unit.
It continuously holds the bag across all the stations it is supposed to go through.
· Vacuum Suction Pad
This operates effectively to open lower parts of the bag.
It is aided by air blower and the opening jaws.
· Bag funnel
This is the part of the machine that delivers the product into the bag. In most instances, it is a multi-head.
When filling powder products, you can use an auger filler.
On the other hand, when filling liquids, a nozzle is used.
· Dust hood
You will find this on top of the filling station.
Its main role is to help clear airborne particles.
· Seal bar
This will seal the upper side of the bag after it has been filled by the product.
Seal bar uses both pressure and heat to make this happen.
· Cooling bar
After sealing has been done, the cooling bar will strengthen and flatten the seal.
· Conveyor belt
When the product is packaged has been sealed and cooled off, it is transferred to a conveyor belt.
The conveyor belt can transport these to weight checking devices or even x-ray machines.
How Automatic Bag Filling Machine Works
Given an empty premade bag and the product to be packaged, how does the machine turn it into a shelf-ready product?
Let us now explore this process step-by-step.
Step 1: Bag Loading
This is the first step, where the operator manually loads the preformed bags into the bag magazine.
A bag feeding roller then channels and conveys the bags to the machine.
Some modern bag filling machines are automated to a higher level and are fitted with a robotic arm.
The arm replaces human labor by loading and shingling of the pre-made bags in the machine.
Step 2: Bag Gripping
The proximity sensor detects the empty bag, then the vacuum bag loader picks and moves it to the grippers.
The grippers hold the bag as it moves to the different stations.
For a good bag filling machine, the grippers should be able to support up to 10 kg
Step 3: Printing/Embossing
These machines can use both inkjet and thermal printers.
The printer places dates on the bags/pouches.
Using the embossing option, you are able to place raised dates or lot codes into the bag seal.
Step 4: Bag Opening and Detection
If the bag is designed with a zipper, a vacuum pad will open the lower part of the bag.
The opening jaws will catch its top side.
The jaws then separate outward in order to open the top of the bag before an air blower inflates it.
Some bags do not have zippers.
In this case, the air blower inflates it immediately the vacuum suction pads have opened the bottom of the bag.
That means the opening jaws are not engaged.
Step 5: Actual Bag Filling
A multi-head scale drops the products into the bag via a bag funnel.
If you are dealing with powder products, an auger filler fills the product into the bag.
For liquid products, a liquid filler with a nozzle pumps the product into the bag.
These filling apparatus are designed to fill the pouch with a lot of precision.
They, therefore, release only the desired quantities into the bag.
The machine uses a modified atmosphere packaging process called gas flush to displace oxygen within the bag.
Infusion bag filling process
It uses a blast of nitrogen gas to displace the oxygen in order to ensure maximum displacement before filling the product.
If you are dealing with dusty and messy products, you should have a dust hood placed above the filling station.
The dust hood helps to collect airborne particles.
Step 6: Product Settling
Here, the pre-made bag is shaken gently to ensure that the loose contents settle to the bottom of the bag before sealing it.
If you are filling a liquid product, then this is where the machine adds a second seal for maximum integrity.
Also, this is where you can opt to add a second filling station.
That is especially relevant if you are filling both liquid and solid products into the bags.
You can also have a load shelf to bear the load if you are dealing with heavy products.
This will help to save the gripping arms from excessive stress that may affect their functionality.
Step 7: Sealing and Deflation
The machine has two deflator components that squeeze any remaining air out of the bag.
After that, a hot seal bar seals the upper part of the bag.
It uses heat and pressure to bond together the sealant layers of the premade bag, leading to a strong seam.
Step 8: Cooling and Discharge
After sealing, the seal needs to be strengthened before it leaves the machine.
To achieve this, a cooling bar passes over and ogresses the seal, causing it to be more compact and firm.
The machine then discharges the finished bag into a receptacle or a conveyor to transport it to the next level of production.
Considerations when Importing Automatic Bag Filling Machine
Whenever you’re planning to import automatic bag filling machine, it is important to consider the following:
· Brand/Model of Automatic Bag Filling Equipment
When importing an automatic bag filling machine, the product that you will be packaging matters a great deal.
This will dictate the brand of the machine to go for.
Different models have different packaging capabilities.
In the same footing, different models package different forms of products.
Take, for instance, the same machine used for packaging granules might not be used in packaging products in powder form.
Your budget will also influence the choice of the model you can afford.
With a small budget, you can acquire a brand with fewer features compared to when operating with a bigger budget.
Another issue that might see you pick one brand and not the other is an experience.
With a common brand, you are assured of easily getting the spare parts in cases of breakdown.
You will have to do your research on the companies’ websites to ascertain performance.
· New Technology in Automatic Bag Filling Machine Industry
In the recent past, a number of inventions have emerged in the development of automatic bag filling machines.
These additional features make packaging easier and efficient in the industries.
Most processes have been automated such as:
i. Bag forming
ii. Positioning bag
iii. Filling bags
iv. Weighing bags
v. Sealing bags
vi. Counting bags, etc.
This explains why it is critical to ensure that the machine you are purchasing incorporates contemporary features.
Go for a machine that, apart from filling the bags, can also weigh them and fix the seals.
This will help you cut costs associated with hiring additional employees to bridge gap unattended to by old technology.
Some of the latest machines in the market, for example, are fitted with a robotic arm that helps in loading.
In so doing, it cuts the cost of production, thereby enhancing profits.
· Production Capacity of Bag Filling Equipment
When importing a bag filling machine, ensure that it meets your desired level of output.
Take, for instance, when you aim to produce 1440 bags per hour.
This will mean that you will have to shop for a machine that fills at least 24 bags per min.
The number of bags filled per minute is usually determined by the speed of rotation of the filling spout.
It is also determined by the speed of the conveyor belt.
When checking on these, ensure that the machine meets the volumes you intend to fill.
· Power Consumption
Buy an automatic bag filling machine that is energy efficient.
The power rating must match that of the distribution grid in terms of voltage and frequency.
· Type of Bags Machine Can Fill
There are many types of automatic bag filling machines such:
- Powder filling machine
- Liquid filling machine
- Open mouth bag filling machine
- Valve bag filling machine, etc.
· Quality Compliance
Before purchasing an automatic bag filling machine, ensure that the manufacturer has complied with quality standards.
Usually, there are a number of bodies that seek to standardize quality among manufacturers.
These always come with certification on the same.
Here are some of the guiding standardization certifications to look out for.
You could be interested in acquiring an automatic bag filling machine for your pharmaceutical needs.
CGMP stands for current, good manufacturing practice regulations.
This set of regulations is set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensures proper design and monitoring of the product.
It also regulates the manufacturing processes and the facilities within which production is done.
Ensure that the manufacturer you are purchasing your machine from has complied with these standards.
In the European Economic Area, CE is a mark of certification.
It is an indication that the product in the market has confirmed to certain standards.
These include health standards, user-safety standards, and environmental protection standards.
When purchasing an automatic bag filling machine within the European market, ensure that you check out for this mark.
Products manufactured elsewhere but meant to be sold in the European market should also bear this mark.
This refers to the restriction of hazardous substances.
This certification mode also originated from the European Union.
It particularly restricts the use of some hazardous substances that can be found in both electrical and electronic products.
This certification usually remains valid for five years.
Some of the hazardous substances restricted include lead, mercury, chromium, and cadmium.
Other substances include PBBs and PBDEs.
Check out for this certification when buying your machine.
Since it is an internationally adopted standardization mark, manufactures in China, too use it to access the European market.
This is the Chinese certification mark.
This mark is compulsory for products that are imported and sold or used in China.
As such, it becomes easier to ascertain whether the machine you are buying is safe and has met quality standards.
ISO 9000 is designed to aid organizations in ensuring that the needs of the customers are met.
This is done without compromising on the regulations set for the product or even service.
This can pass to be one of the most common certification marks.
This certification on the company and the product you are buying is usually considered enough proof of quality.
This is also an international standards organization.
It usually develops and publishes mutually agreed on standards for materials and products.
The same applies to systems and services.
Equally, this mark assures you that you have purchased a quality product.
· Safety Features
Safety is a critical aspect of the production process.
Your automatic bag filling machine should have all the necessary safety measures to protect:
- Bag filling machine itself
Clearly, an automatic bag filling machine plays a fundamental role in both pharmaceutical and other industries.
However, what matters most is your ability to choose a reliable and efficient automatic bag filling machine based on all aspects outlined in this guide.
More importantly, it must have quality certificates and comply with the necessary regulations.