Inline Cappers for the Bottling Industry

Inline Filling Systems designs and manufactures world class Filling Machine Equipment, Capping Machines, Labeling Machines, Turntables, Conveyors and other equipment for fully integrated liquid packaging lines.

The following information is presented as an applications guide for the selection of capping machines that operate at speeds of under 200 containers per minute. The Capping machines discussed here are used only in the application of plastic and metal threaded caps as well as plastic snap caps, some fitments and some types of corks. The information covers both manual/handheld cappers, semiautomatic and cappers and fully automatic capping machines.

Please note that aluminum Roll-on-Pilfer-Proof (ROPP) caps and corks used in the corking of wine bottles are not applicable to this range of machinery. Rather,  the focus of this guide is for the capping of rigid containers with pre-made threaded caps as they are applied to most plastic and glass bottles and jars throughout the food, beverage, chemical and pharma industries.

Automatic Inline Capping Machine
This is the most popularly used capping machine as it will work for most bottles and caps at speeds up to 200 cpm depending on cap size and container configuration. It will handle flat caps, sport caps, yorker caps, metal lids and any other caps that can be placed or "picked off" at a 30 to 40 degree angle without any special cap or bottle handling change parts.

This capping machine can handle a cap size range up to 120 mm including child resistant caps. However, some caps with diameters greater than 60mm do not work well in this type of machine due to problems with the thread design, the height of the cap, and because the planar surface of the top of the cap is not true. (See the vertical cap placer below as a solution to this problem.)
This machine can handle container sizes ranging in: (height) 1-1/2" to 15" (width) 1/2" to 7" in plastic, metal, or glass.  As long as the bottles are fairly rigid and can be gripped by the belts that draw the bottle through the tightening area,  they will work fine in this machine.

Torque control is achieved by either spring loaded clutches or air clutches that cause the tightening surface against the cap to release once the target torque has been reached.

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Automatic Chuck Capping Machine
These chuck style capping machines are extremely reliable and repeatable but are more costly than the inline type capping machine described above because they require specific bottle handling change parts for each container as well as a specific chuck for each different cap size. Even without the additional cost of changeparts, the hardware cost of this type of machine is also significantly higher than the inline type above.

There are some capping applications where this is the ONLY type of capping machine that will do the job. For example, very small or unstable containers that would otherwise topple over are stabilized in this machine by the specific change parts.  Also,  there are capping applications where the cap MUST be vertically placed onto the mouth of the container and cannot be "picked off" at an angle as described above.  The use of a chuck tightening device also avoids the particulation of tightening surfaces and therefore makes it the capping machine of choice in the biomedical and pharma industries.

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Automatic Snap Capping Machine
This type of capping machine is quite specialized to the application of  NEPCO or similar type of snap caps. The cap is "picked off" or placed onto the container in the same fashion as the inline type capping machine, but the cap is then merely forced into its seated position by downward pressure of rollers as the bottle is drawn through the machine. Because there are fewer moving parts on this machine, it is significantly less expensive than other types of automatic capping machines.

There are closures in the industry called "snap screw" caps which are a hybrid of the snap cap and threaded screw caps.  They require both the torquing action of a threaded cap as well as the downward rolled force of a snap cap.  For this special application,  a inline capping machine as described above, along with a snap cap roller attachment, will do the job.

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Automatic Cap Placer
As mentioned above,  there are limitations to the use of "inline" type or spindle type capping machines especially when it comes to large caps with diameters greater than 80mm.  Many bulk foods are commonly packaged with 110mm closures.  These closures hardly ever work on an inline type of machine because the cap must be placed vertically in order to prevent cross threading.  Once the cap is placed vertically and the cap started on the threads,  the cap can then be tightened to the target torque with a cap tightener downtream from the placer.

This placer in combination with cap tightener can also be used as an economical substitute for a chuck capper described above especially where the caps and container sizes are quite large.

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Automatic Cap Tightener
As described above, the cap tightener does not place the caps on the container; rather it is used only for tightening or retightening. In the case of use with a vertical placer, it provides the target torque for the cap after it is vertically placed.

However, the most common use of a cap tightening machine is for
retorquing of  caps after an induction sealing event. The heat produced by an upstream induction sealer can cause a cap to loosen itself from the container from dissimilar expansion rates. The cap tightener solves this problem by re tightening the cap to the target torque.

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Handheld Capping Machine
This capping machine is Lowest cost alternative for capping with the highest degree of labor. These units are typically pneumatic but are also offered in electric configurations. The pneumatic units provide a smoother and more comfortable torque control than the electric units.

The simple operation is as follows: the unit is suspended above the bottle by a spring loaded reel that relieves the operator from having to hold the (heavy) unit up. The operator places and starts caps on bottles manually; after pressing the unit down on the cap the operator activates the unit while holding down the container. The unit will stall or disengage its clutch when the target torque is reached. However, the repeatability of torque with this simple device does depend on how consistent the operator applies downward pressure on the cap.

Handheld capper provides relief from blisters, fatigue and potential carpal tunnel damage associated with overworking the hands and wrists

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Benchtop Capping Machine
This capping machine works nearly the same way as the handheld device described above but with much higher torque repeatability and much less fatigue to the operator.  The difference is that the operator does not hold and press down on the cap. The tightener is fixtured to an air cylinder that when activated by footswitch, it always presses down on the cap in the same direction with the same amount of downward force. This action ensures a very high degree repeatable torque with very little labor involvement other than to manage the bottles manually.

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Semi Automatic Benchtop Capping Machine
This capping machine is one more step above the benchtop capping machine described above.  The operator does not manage the containers.  The operator only places caps onto container. The benchtop capping machine does the rest: a photoeye detects the container which then grabs and holds it securely. The tightening head then comes down to torque on the cap to the target torque in the same fashion described above. Other than repeatable torque,  the other great advantage of this capping machine is its ability to deliver up to 40 capped bottles per minute with only one operator.

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Semi Automatic Snap Capping Machine
This capping machine is similar to the benchtop models described above with the differnce being that the cap is not torqued; it is only pressed on by a pneumatic cylinder. The operator places snap caps onto container and presses the footswitch in the case of the more manual version or in the case of the semi automatic version,  the container is grabbed and held automatically while the cap is pressed on.

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Hazardous Location Capping Machines
Hazardous materials such as solvents and other flammable and combustable products require capping too.  However, static generation and possible autoignition from electrical systems pose a real hazard to capping operations in a bottling operation. These "explosion proof" capping machines are specifically constructed with intrinsically safe electrical enclosures to insulate the electrical systems from the packaging atmosphere.

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