Ask any successful entrepreneur to summarize their startup experience and they’ll likely respond, in part, by describing the endless barrage of decisions they were forced to make that ultimately led to successes or failures in their business.  The key to becoming a sustainable business is not in the individual successes or failures but the run rate over time.  Our intent behind this blog is to help every enterprising liquid filling startup skew their run rate toward success.  That said, among the most critical decisions any liquid filling startup must make is in which type of liquid filling machine to first invest (hint: it’s probably a tabletop piston filler).  With so many varieties of automated filling equipment to choose from, the decision can often lead to frustration, confusion, and more questions than answers.  And it certainly doesn’t help that many filling equipment manufacturers complicate matters by trying to convince the unsuspecting customer to purchase a lot of unnecessary, not to mention costly, equipment right out the gate.  So, let’s simplify things for you…

If you’re currently filling by hand and looking to enhance your efficiency and productivity, throw away that funnel and invest in a Tabletop Piston Filler.  Here are the four reasons why a Tabletop Piston Filler is probably your best bet for your first liquid filling machine:

1. Quick Repeatable Fills

Clearly the reason you’re interested in any automation equipment is to improve your filling efficiency.  Among the simplest ways to improve efficiency is to decrease the time between fills.  Tabletop piston fillers are engineered with simple components to aid the operator in reducing time between fills.  First, we employ a V-Groove Bottle Guide as part of the base of the filling machine.  This is a physical guide that helps the operator precisely and consistently place the container to be filled directly under the fill head.  In addition to decreasing time between fills, this also has the added benefit of preventing spills, thus decreasing wasted product.

Another obvious improvement that can enhance efficiency is to decrease the time it takes to fill the container (while maintaining accuracy).  Many types of fillers can dispense liquids faster than a person with funnel in their hand, trying ever so carefully not to short their customers or make a mess.  The piston filling advantage fills the need by dispensing quickly and accurately, with thin to thick liquids.   

While large, highly customized pump or gravity filling solutions require a fairly significant amount of time and skill to configure and regularly re-calibrate, tabletop piston fillers, like our Series 1 Tabletop Piston Filler™ feature a Prime, Set, and Forget setup.  Once the operator primes the piston and sets the appropriate flow rate and fill volume for the product, the piston filler will remain locked into that setting for the entirety of the filling session without the need for repeat calibration or configuration.

2. Product Versatility

  • Dispenses a wide range of thin to viscous liquids – Piston fillers are widely revered for being among the most versatile and adaptable filling solutions available.  They are ideal for filling light to medium viscosity liquids like those shown in the table below.
Light ViscosityMedium-Light ViscosityMedium-Heavy Viscosity
Essential OilsThin LotionsGels
Edible OilsSaucesThick Lotions
CBD OilsSalsasFace Scrubs
E-LiquidsMild AbrasivesPeanut Butter
WaterDressingsAlmond Butter
MarinadesCreams
  • Handles small particulates – Filling machines designed for thin liquids, like a peristaltic filler, are not equipped to handle particulates.  On the contrary, piston fillers can accommodate products like face scrubs, dressings, and marinades that may contain small particulates like micro-beads, seeds, or spices.
  • Easily adapted for handling chunky products – Machine components for dispensing chunky products vary based on several factors; chunk sizes and shapes, consistency of the base liquid, and tendency to bridge as product moves through its pathway. In many cases, a simple nozzle change is all that is required. Larger fill head assemblies, valves, hoses, and mixers are available for handling just about anything.
  • Adaptations for suspensions, highly viscous and thixotropic fluids – Adaptations for these types of products are actually quite common, and yet vary with each application.
    • Where particles/chunks fall out of suspension quickly, a hopper agitator or recirculating pump system is normally required. If the hopper just needs a stir every minute or so, a $5-10 spatula might be sufficient.
    • Very thick products can often be heated to make them more flowable, and a heated filler prevents the product from cooling and thickening when it reaches cold metal.  Thick products which cannot be heated can still be filled when fed to the filler under pressure, and there are several ways to do that.
    • Thixotropic and pseudo-plastic liquids change viscosity based on movement, or shear. If they are not kept flowing, they may set up quickly and require other provisions for filling. A pumping system is a common solution, which can continuously feed product from the bulk tank to the filler and back to bulk tank. This constant movement prevents product thickening, and can also keep particulate from falling out of suspension as noted in one of the bullets above.

3. Fast Change Over

Whether you need to fill several different products in a single day, or you simply need the convenience of a quick and painless cleanup, the inherently simple design of tabletop piston fillers make cleanup and change over a breeze.

When a filler begins to dispense air with product, you have reached the end of the production run, or at least the end of Set and Forget. Some usable product always remains in the system at the moment when the operator witnesses the first burp of air. Depending on the fill size, you can then bottle a few containers worth of product manually.

When switching between similar products, many buyers simply run leftover product out of the filler, and then flush any residual product from the filler.  However, on a piston filler flushing is made easier with a selector switch, so the filler can continuously cycle without having to press the foot pedal each time.  Solutions for flushing vary depending on your products.  Some use water, mineral oil, or alcohol.  Many operators prime the filler with the next product, and discard (if necessary) the small amount of crossover product.  The typical process is as follows:

  1. Run the machine to dispense leftover product (manually fill leftovers, save for future runs with that product, or toss the leftover if minimal).
  2. Flush the filler with flushing solution of choice, from either a hopper or hose (Skip this step if disassembling for complete cleaning, as it adds time).
  3. Prime the filler with fresh, new product.
  4. Adjust the fill level and flow rate.
  5. Begin your production run.

At the end of the day, or when switching between dissimilar products, a seasoned operator can disassemble and clean the machine in 15 minutes.  The typical process is as follows:

  1. Run the machine to dispense any leftover product.
  2. Disassemble dirty parts and move them to a suitable washing station.
  3. Pre-rinse, wash, sanitize, rinse and, if necessary, dry all the parts.
  4. Assemble the parts at production table per instructions.
  5. Prime the filler with fresh, new product.
  6. Adjust the fill level and flow rate.
  7. Begin your production run.

 

Series 1 Piston Filler Tri-Clamp

Tri-Clamp Connections

Fluid Parts Kit

Tools Included

For disassembly, our Series 1 Tabletop Piston Filler™ features tri-clamp connections which allow the filler to be torn down or reassembled in a matter of seconds. While many manufacturers claim that their piston fillers are tool-less, the reality is that no piston filler, or any filling machine for that matter, can be satisfactorily cleaned and sanitized without the use of some tools.  Because honesty is a core value of Fluid Solutions, we describe our tabletop piston filler as mostly tool-less.  The good news is that every Fluid Solutions filler includes any tools required for routine maintenance in the box, standard.
Our tabletop piston filler is also designed to meet or exceed all hygienic equipment standards and are suitable for food and drug filling applications.

4. Cost Effective

Being that this is your first purchase of any filling automation equipment, it’s important that it can grow and evolve as your business grows; hence, the tabletop piston filler features a modular design that can be upgraded to an automatic bottling line.  Electronic control systems, conveyors, rotary turntables for loading empty bottles or accumulating completed bottles, capping systems, induction sealers, nitrogen purge systems, heat tunnels, bottle rinsers/washers and code printing components can all be added as your demand and/or product requirements change. Why buy it now if you do not need it, but is it not reassuring to know you can add it later when you do need it?

Finally, if you’re looking for a high quality tabletop piston filler that’s made in The United States with components sourced from The United States, we’d encourage you to consider our Series 1 Tabletop Piston Filler™.  Supporting the American economy is a core value of Fluid Solutions and we’ve worked hard to design our equipment to be the best value in the market for an entry-level filler that is designed, manufactured, and assembled, in the U.S. from parts sourced in the U.S.