Automation plays a crucial role in industrial processes by enhancing efficiency, consistency, and productivity. It reduces human error, increases throughput, and improves safety. Additionally, automation allows for continuous operation, reducing downtime and labor costs while ensuring high-quality output.
A major concern when automating a valve bagging system, however, is the false start. A false start is when the bagger is started, and the bag is not properly positioned on the filling spout.
Most false starts are due to variations in bag construction, wrinkled bags, sensor malfunctions, or misaligned equipment. False starts can lead to waste, product spillage, equipment damage, and production delays.
What Are Valve Bag Fillers?
We must first start with what a valve bagger is. Valve bag fillers, also known as valve bag packers, are equipment used in the packaging industry to efficiently fill valve bags with various powdered or granular materials.
These bags have a one-way valve or opening at the top, which allows for controlled filling and easy sealing. Valve bags are commonly used for packaging products like food ingredients, chemicals, fertilizers, cement, and other bulk materials.
Valve bag fillers are commonly used in the packaging industry for the following reasons:
Valve bag fillers are designed to precisely measure and dispense the required amount of material into each bag. This accuracy ensures consistency in product weight and reduces material wastage.
These machines are equipped with dust collection systems that capture airborne particles during the filling process. This helps maintain a clean and safe working environment while reducing product loss due to dust.
Speed and Efficiency
Valve baggers can fill bags at a high rate, increasing packaging efficiency and throughput. Automated systems can significantly outperform manual filling processes in terms of speed and consistency.
Improved Product Quality
By minimizing human intervention, valve bag fillers can enhance product quality by reducing the chances of contamination or human errors during the filling process.
Reduced Labor Costs
Automation eliminates the need for manual labor in the bag-filling process, reducing labor costs and the risk of employee injuries associated with heavy lifting.
These machines can be adapted to handle a wide range of materials and bag sizes, making them suitable for various industries and product types.
Overall, the adaptability and flexibility of valve bag packers makes them valuable assets for businesses that need to package bulk materials efficiently and consistently.
Common Causes of False Starts
There are many reasons why a false start can occur in valve bag fillers. This is why understanding the machine and preventing false starts is crucial for several reasons.
Firstly, it ensures that resources such as raw materials and energy are not wasted on incomplete or faulty filling processes.
Secondly, it avoids product spillage, which can be costly in terms of cleanup, disposal, and potential environmental impacts.
Lastly, by maintaining a consistent and error-free automation process, efficiency is maximized, reducing production downtime and maintenance costs, ultimately leading to significant cost savings, and improved overall efficiency in industrial operations.
The common causes of false starts in valve bag fillers include:
- Material flow problems
- Material characteristics
- Air pressure problems
- Improper valve adjustment
- Electrical or control system issues
- Operator error
- Inadequate maintenance
- Material segregation
- Inconsistent material feed
- Environmental factors
When a system is manually operated, the operator visually ensures that the bag is properly applied. If the start is unintentionally tripped, the operator can quickly respond by pressing an emergency stop button.
When a system includes an automatic bag applicator, it is likely that an operator is not readily available to respond to a false start. Control methods must be implemented to eliminate false starts where possible and mitigate their effects otherwise.
Preventing False Starts in Valve Baggers
Preventing false starts when automating valve bag fillers is crucial to ensure the efficiency and accuracy of your packaging process. Here are some steps you can take to prevent false starts:
- Conduct regular maintenance
- Ensure proper training
- Have clear operating procedures
- Check for product and bag compatibility
- Ensure good bag placement
- Calibrate sensors
- Adjust settings
- Have emergency stop mechanisms
- Conduct regular inspections
- Implement quality control procedures
- Have a maintenance schedule
At Premier Tech, we've taken several steps to tackle the issue of false starts caused by incorrectly positioned bags. Let's break down our measures for better clarity:
1. Start Mechanism
When a bag is placed on the filling spout, the bag's leading edge activates a mechanical plate that triggers a non-contact proximity switch. If the bag gets stuck on the end of the filling spout or isn't pushed deep enough onto it, the auto-start switch doesn't activate. This prevents the bagger from starting, and the bag is rejected.
2. Important Features
All Premier Tech baggers with automatic applicators come equipped with the following features:
Bag Blow-Off Switch
As the bag fills and takes on a rounded shape, it moves away from the auto start switch. This switch must remain engaged throughout the filling process. If it disengages for any reason, the packing machine shuts down.
Maximum Fill Timer
If, for any reason, the bag takes longer to fill than expected, the packing machine is automatically shut down.
Loss-in-Weight or No-Weight-Gain
This feature, available on all current Premier Tech weight controllers, uses an algorithm to assess if the bag is filling as anticipated. If the bag bursts or the product flow stops, the weight controller detects it and shuts down the machine.
While these features address issues after the packing machine has started, they don't prevent false starts.
It's more effective to prevent false starts than to detect them after they've occurred. An ideal solution is a failsafe mechanism that ensures the bag is both properly positioned around the spout and pushed deep enough onto it.
3. Introduction of the B.O.S.S. (Bag-on-Spout Sensor)
Premier Tech has developed the B.O.S.S., a patented 2-point "Bag-In-Place" detection system. This optional feature, strongly recommended for CleanPak machines with ultrasonic valve sealing, uses two lasers to detect the bag's position around the filling spout.
Each laser is enclosed in a pressurized housing to keep the lens clean and protect it from dust. The laser sensors are directly mounted to the packing machine frame, aiming towards the left and right sides of the filling tube. The B.O.S.S. can detect various issues with miss-applied bags without physically touching them.
Benefits of the Bag-on-Spout Sensor include:
- Ensuring cleaner operation by preventing filler starts due to misplaced bags.
- Eliminating labor costs associated with cleaning spilled product from misplaced bags.
- Cost savings by preventing contaminated product from reaching the floor.
- Compatibility with II-G-1 or II-G-2 rated areas.
Overall, the B.O.S.S. unit accurately assesses and measures the bag placement on the filling spout, preventing the filler from starting if the bag isn't correctly positioned. This prevents product spills.
This unit also utilizes two lasers that target the area around the filling spout. If the bag's top obstructs the lasers within the filling spout's diameter, the B.O.S.S. considers the bag correctly placed.
If, however, the bag slips under the spout or is above the filling tube top, the B.O.S.S. identifies it as an improperly placed bag.
In both cases of improperly placed bags, the B.O.S.S. prevents the filling machine from starting, and the bag is rejected, allowing another bag to be tried.
To ultimately prevent false starts in valve bag fillers, it's crucial to implement regular maintenance and monitoring procedures, properly train operators, and ensure the equipment is designed and adjusted for the specific material being filled.
Additionally, addressing material characteristics and environmental factors can also contribute to smoother filling operations.
By following these steps and maintaining a proactive approach to equipment maintenance and operation, you can significantly reduce the likelihood of false starts when automating valve bag fillers, leading to increased productivity and efficiency in your packaging process.
Get Started with Preventive Maintenance
Premier Tech is proud to offer a five-tier preventive maintenance program to all of our customers, performed by qualified personnel who are invested in your success.
Our approach is designed to prevent and quickly remedy problems and ensure long equipment life, safe operations, and optimal performance.