A clever machine vision solution allows one manufacturer to fully automate a hands free bulk packaging system for a hot-fill chemical.
A client approached EPIC with the challenge of improving the efficiency and safety of a 55 gallon drum filling line. The main goal: Automating a system that efficiently tests, fills, and reloads sets of four 55-gallon drums as they come off the delivery truck. Drums leave on the same truck they arrive on, filled and tightly capped. Leaky drums must be tested and rejected, to avoid costly and dangerous chemical spills.
There are many ways to automate packaging and filling machinery; simple controls, robotic elements, automatic lifts to name a few. But the solution that EPIC was looking for was not simply based on the one parameter of automating the line. We wanted to improve the client’s process, simplifying steps and providing a cost and time effective solution.
The EPIC solution? Integrating a machine vision system that tests, rejects, fills and uncaps/caps the drums in-line, without even unstrapping them from the bundles of four they arrive in. The key features of EPIC’s solution include:
- A line that receives drums off the truck, fills them, and returns them to the truck at the end of the line
- Four drums remain strapped together for filling process, while still treating each drum individually for pressure check, filling and weighing process
- Custom machine vision system that allows for an automated filling system that can adjust to varying opening locations
- Automated systems to check the pressure of the drums and mark defective drums
- Automated system to remove the caps off the openings
This vision solution uses a grid system to locate the bung-hole openings on top of each drum in a set of four. Each drum has two capped holes, one of which the system tightens with a magnetic torque wrench. A seal is formed over the other hole and the drum is pressure tested. Each individual drum must pass the pressure test; otherwise the filler will skip that drum.
The filling head uses the vision system grid to locate the open hole of the drum and drop down into the 55 gallon container. The drum is filled to an exact weight, and the system tightens the final cap onto each of the drums after filling. All four drums, still strapped together, get placed back on the truck.
EPIC’s diverse integration background allowed us to marry a vision solution with a common packaging application for a better solution. Visit the full-case study to learn more about this job, or visit our line integration and machine vision sites to learn more about EPIC’s integration abilities. Contact an engineer today to discuss your solution.