Complete Bottling Line
A complete bottling line by definition is a system that enables the bottling of drinks starting from an empty container (bottles, cans, etc.) and ending with a packaged product and its storage on pallets.
A bottling line is made up of different machines which vary in function depending on the container used. Some machines are specific to the container and the bottled product, while others are common regardless of whether or not a particular product is used, as in the case of the filler, which performs the filling function for any product and container.
At an essential level, a bottling line can also consist of only a filling monoblock, i.e. a filler and a capper.
This depends on the rated speed of the bottling, which is always measured in how many bottles leave the production within a certain amount of time, which can be minutes or hours.
In the case of a bottling line composed only of a filling monoblock, the output of bottles per hour is so low as to allow the company not to use other machinery that would make the line completely automatic. In this case, an operator will be placed at the beginning of the line to load the bottles by hand on an accumulation table that will make the bottles flow into the automatic filler.
At the exit of the monoblock, after capping, another operator will be occupied with the labeling and subsequent storage of the bottles inside the boxes that will go directly to the distribution points to be sold, such as shops and supermarkets.
This type of bottling line is used only for productions which are generally classified as small / medium wineries and oil mills. The products can be wine, vinegar, oil but also dairy products. In general, all goods that can have a few hundred runs or a few thousand bottles per hour.
On the other hand , when dealing with water, soft drinks and products with thousands and hundreds of thousands of bottles per hour, a complete bottling line generally consists of a whole series of machines that enable the completely automatic production from start to finish in a mechanically almost autonomous way, that is, without the need for operators to interact directly with the process.
The used machinery and its technological level varies in correlation with the speed and standards that a company must maintain throughout the production cycle of a certain product.
In any bottling line, the most delicate process however remains the phase that goes from filling to capping. At this juncture, if certain quality standards are to be maintained, the machine must in no case allow the contamination of the bottled product.
An example can be wine: if the applicable precautions are not adopted between filling and capping, the wine inside the bottle can over time degrade in quality.
It can age prematurely or undergo an acetic fermentation that would irreversibly compromise its drinkability. Oxidation and bacteria are the main causes of contamination and consequent deterioration of any food.
As mentioned previously, a bottling line is made up of different machines, depending on the container used. A complete line that works with glass bottles might have different machines, than one that uses PET bottles, cans, brik etc… which have different types of closures and processes. Below we detail the various types, describing how they work and specifying the differences.
Glass bottling line
The composition glass bottle filling line varies substantially on the basis of the product to be bottled, on the presence or absence of co2 inside the drink and on the path that the bottle will take once sold to the final consumer (disposable or returnable). Knowing this already, it is possible to estimate the type of machinery that will make up the glass bottling line.
Disposable glass bottling line
Disposable means a glass bottling line that uses only new bottles which, at the end of production, will be directed to large-scale distribution, to end up, once used, in separate collection and be recycled / disposed of. Within the production phases, the glass bottles are generally rinsed internally with various treatments, in order to make the glass container sterile.
In some cases there is a bottle washer in the production line that washes the bottles completely both internally and externally. In this case the washing cycle is almost simple because the glass bottles are new and don’t have labels, foreign bodies or various liquids inside them that need to be removed.
Returnable empty glass bottling line
A returnable glass bottling line is a different matter. A returnable bottling line is one in which the container (the glass bottle) is returned or taken back to the bottling plant. This reuse obviously brings several advantages but also, the bottling process becomes more delicate and laborious, because the returned glass bottles need to be filled completely safely and hygienically. Usually the bottles are returned in plastic crates, with or without cap, with or without label or with internal residues, etc...
Therefore more machines are needed and each operation, if the goal is complete automatization, will need to be carried out by different specialized machines.
A glass bottle that has already been used will need to remove the cap, be washed (in its entirety) and have the residual label / glue removed, by means of pulp baths. All these processes are aimed at making the glass bottle look like new again. This procedure can be repeated a certain number of times, it is not infinite but has a positive impact on the environment, saving about 80% of resources during the entire cycle of use of a glass bottle.
As mentioned above, a specific machine is used for each single cleaning and bottle renewal process. The machines that have the greatest impact on the appearance of a "returnable" line compared to a "disposable" line are: pulp bottle washers, craters/ deraters, crate washers, decappers etc ...
The pulp bottle washer takes care of the complete renewal of the returned bottle through several baths with different treatments. This allows the glass bottle to be returned to its original state as if it had just come out of the glass factory. In case of damaged bottles, a series of inspectors take care of selecting and rejecting all the bottles that do not meet the minimum quality standards.