The client receives empty 55 gallon drums strapped together in sets of four that will be filled with a chemical mixture at 180° Fahrenheit.
Client: Fortune 100 Company
Industry: Agricultural Chemicals
Key Engineering Features:
- Drum filling systems automation, hands free bulk packaging system for drum fill
- Custom vision system working with integrated packaging line and controls
- Custom drum filling machine
- Complete and correct individual machine programming and full line automation
- Pressure check, cap removal, and defective drum reject/marking system.
- 180º hot-fill industrial chemical that posses a potential safety risk to workers
- Varying orientation of drums within a set of four, which are strapped together
- Varying location of drum fill openings based on individual drum orientationUnknown drum integrity coming into the filling line
- Drums arrive with caps over both openings, which must be removed before drums can be filled
Drum Filling System Automation Solution:
EPIC first completed preliminary design to assure the most efficient process and accurate cost quotation. After reviewing the objectives and challenges with the client, EPIC’s engineers completed an analysis of the drum fill line and created an implementation plan that included the following elements:
- Custom vision system that allows for an automated filling system that can adjust to varying opening locations
- Packaging line that allowed the sets of four drums to remain strapped together throughout the process
- Automated systems to check the pressure of the drums and mark defective drums
- Automated system to remove the caps off the openings
- Hands-free packaging systems for maximum efficiency and worker safety
EPIC’s Proven Solution
EPIC managed every aspect of the project including: assessment, packaging line re-design, mechanical and structural design, applied engineering and fabrication, controls engineering, installation, plant integration, FAT testing, and start-up and support.
EPIC’s Line Integration team worked closely with the EPIC Vision Lab to take the packaging line from design to start-up. The final drum fill line includes a dual camera vision system that allows for a completely hands-free filling process.
The set of four drums are unloaded from the truck and placed on the line strapped together. As they move towards the filler, a camera locates the four drums and uses a grid system to locate the general location of each of the openings on top of the drums. A second camera pinpoints the location of both openings on top of the individual drums.
This information is used to accomplish several tasks. First, a magnetic torque wrench is used to tighten one of the two caps over the openings, and to remove the other cap in preparation for filling. A pressure check of the drum is performed by sealing the open hole and pushing air into the drum. A pressure switch must be flipped. If the switch is not flipped, the seal is re-established and the test tried again. Two failures result in that drum not being filled and marked as defective. Pass and fail is on an individual drum basis, so if one drum in a set fails, the other drums can still pass and be filled.
Once a drum proves to be leak free, the drum is filled by moving the filling head to the exact location of the open hole. The drum sits on a scale and is filled to an exact weight. After it reaches the target weight, the cap is screwed back on mechanically to a certain torque. All four drums are filled at the same time. Then the four full drums, still strapped together, go back to the forklift and are put back on the truck.
- Eliminated worker risks by automating a previously hands-on process
- Increased efficiency by allowing the four drums to remain strapped together for filling process, while still treating each drum individually for pressure check, filling and weighing process
- Streamlined entire packaging system by designing a line that receives drums off the truck, fills them, and returns them to the truck at the end of the line
The EPIC Difference: Drum Fill Line
EPIC provided expert insight into how to design an efficient and safe packaging line with the utilization of a custom vision system. Because of EPIC’s experience in the field, EPIC was able to recommend the correct packaging equipment, and prevent problems before they arose.
The EPIC Difference includes several key features that assure a projects success:
- Front-End Engineering to ensure that the proper steps are taken during project scope development for automated drum filling system
- Plant engineering experience that assists clients to identify needs, pinpoint objectives and provide the most appropriate manufacturing equipment for the application
- Open door client policy to promote innovation. We invite clients to visit EPIC to experiment with new processes, technologies and techniques that push the limits of traditional engineering.
- Accountability to responsibly manage our clients’ projects from start-to-finish and beyond.
- A transfer of knowledge (not just a basic training) for the drum filling system and the equipment that was provided
- Single point of direct contact during the entirety of the project
- State-of-the-art shop which decreases down-time and increases the speed of project completion