Cosmetic Fillers for Small and Medium Sized Operations

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. 

This analysis deals primarily with lower capacity cosmetic fillers used by small to medium sized companies and excludes high speed rotary cosmetic fillers typically found only in the mass market. The cosmetic fillers discussed here are also used throughout all industries including food, beverage, chemical, cosmetic and pharmaceutical but at lower speeds; usually less than 200 containers per minute. In fact, most of the market for cosmetic fillers in terms of units sold is for semi automatic equipment that operates at speeds not exceeding 20 containers per minute.

No one type of cosmetic filler can handle all liquids in the cosmetic industry. For example, a machine that fills thin cosmetic  products usually cannot fill cosmetic cold cream. The choice of cosmetic filler depends on the range of viscosities, temperature, chemical compatibility, particulate size, and foam characteristics. Each one of the machines below is discussed with its strengths and weaknesses and range of best suited applications.

Overflow cosmetic fillers
This type of filler is perhaps the most widely used machine in small bottle filling operations because it handles a wide range of thin, free flowing liquids as well as liquids with medium viscosity. This machine is also commonly referred to as a "fill to level" cosmetic filler or cosmetic height filler. This means that machine fills to a target fill height in the container rather than volumetrically. But it can also be shown that as long as the container specification do not vary greatly, the volumetric accuracy of this machine is excellent.

Because this filler operates in a closed loop basis, it is also ideal for handling foamy products.  The Examples of products that work well in this filler are bottled water, liquid soap, motor oil, cleansers and even some dairy products. It can be constructed in both chemical duty versions as well as sanitary versions capable of filling pasteurized products at high temperatures.

This machine is relatively low cost and easy to use. However it is generally not useable for products with viscosities greater than 25000 centipose or products that have any particulates exceeding approximately 1/16" diameter.

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Servo Pump cosmetic fillers
This is a very versatile cosmetic filler capable of filling nearly any type of product that can be pumped. Each nozzle has a dedicated servo controlled pump that can deliver thin liquids, medium and thick viscosity liquids, and liquids with large particulates. Because it is so versatile, it is often purchased by contract packagers who never know what their next filling challenge is going to be. Examples of the range of products that can be run on this machine include soaps, butters, astringents, oils etc. etc.

The challenges of this machine are its high capital cost and the ability of the owner to conduct normal maintenance on a more sophisticated machine. Positive displacement pumps are expensive and so are servo controlled drive systems. Troubleshooting and maintenance requires reasonably competent technical level. However, if affordable, this type of filler is an outstanding choice for nearly any type of filling operation.

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Piston cosmetic fillers
The piston filler is one of the oldest and most reliable types of fillers used in the packaging industry. This cosmetic filler is best suited for viscous products that are paste or semi paste. Piston fillers are primarily built to meet food grade standards and commonly fill heavy sauces, salsas, salad dressings, cosmetic creams, heavy shampoo, gels, and conditioners.

The machine works by a simple principle; The piston is drawn back in its cylinder so that the product is sucked into the cylinder. A rotary valve then changes position so that the product is then pushed out of the nozzle instead of back into the hopper. The volume of the product that is sucked into the cylinder is the precise volume that will be dispensed into the container.

The advantage of this type of filing machine is that involves conventional mechanical technology that is easy to understand for most users. It is also the most cost effective, accurate and fastest way to fill fairly thick products. Although more costly than overflow and time gravity systems discussed above, it costs less than the servo pump filler is still the most cost effective cosmetic filler for thick products.

There are several disadvantages this type of filler. It is practically speaking, NOT suitable for thin products because the mechanical characteristics and clearances of the machine parts allow for leaks on thin products that do not occur on thicker products. The other major disadvantage of this machine is that if there are multiple product and container size changes involved, the cleanup and "tweaking" processes are tedious and time consuming. Lastly, there is a finite range of fill volumes per piston set that can be run on the machine. An operator who needs to fill both gallon containers as well as 8 oz containers will find they cannot run the 8 oz containers accurately using gallon or half gallon piston sets. (This is where the servo pump filler is superior)

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Net Weigh cosmetic fillers
This type of filler is best suited for liquids filled in bulk quantities e.g. 5 gallon pails, etc. or smaller quantity products that have a very high manufactured value. Oftentimes there are products that must be sold by weight for commercial reasons and therefore this cosmetic filler is the only choice. Examples of this type of filler for bulk products include cleaning chemicals, enzyme solutions, oils and other medium value products. High value products filled by these machines include specialty adhesives and paints, precious metals dissolved in acids, and other expensive specialty chemicals.

The operation of this type of cosmetic filler is simple. The product bulk supply is pumped into a holding tank above a pneumatically operated valve. The valve opens and real time net weight information is monitored until the target weight is achieved. The valve simply shuts when the target weight is achieved. Accuracy of fills is accomplished by various "bulk and dribble" methods in the filling process so that overfills are avoided.

The advantage of this cosmetic filler over others is that it is sometimes the only practical (and legal) type of filling for a limited range of applications and for large volume fills. It is also very accurate and effectively provides its own quality control assuming the scale is functioning properly. The disadvantage of this type of cosmetic filler is that it is very expensive per filling head and it is also a relatively slow method of filling into a container. For these reasons, the use of this filling technology is limited to the examples outlined above.

Click here for a guide to selecting Net Weigh Cosmetic Fillers