Bulk bag fillers — alternatively known as bulk bag filling machines, stations, or systems — have a pretty major role in the efficiency of your dry material handling operations. Choosing the right bulk bag filling equipment for your application can seem daunting at first, but in its essence, it really comes down to just three things:
- How many bulk bags do I need to fill per hour?
- What kind of bulk containers will I be filling?
- What kind of material will I be filling them with?
By answering these questions, we can usually get a pretty good grasp on the right bulk bag filler for you. Using that foundational knowledge, we can then discuss additional bulk bag filling system features and pricing that might fit your budget.
How many bulk bags do I need to fill per hour?
In other words, what is the desired bulk bag filling rate (measured in bags/hour)? There are three major factors that will impact the rate of filling:
- How long does it take to set up (rig) the container to be filled?
- How long does it take to fill the container?
- How long does it take to remove a filled container to make way for the next?
The material flow rate will dictate the filling time for each bulk bag — there are ways we can facilitate that (to be discussed later), but assuming flow rate is optimized, there's not much for you or your workers to do but wait. Therefore, where we make the biggest gains in efficiency is in setup and removal — swapping FIBCs (flexible intermediate bulk containers) in and out with minimal downtime.
There is only so fast a human can place a new skid under the bag, attach the four bag loops to the frame, attach the bag spout, and start the next filling cycle. Automated features such as pallet dispensers, slip sheet dispensers, pallet stackers, and conveyors can accelerate bag changeout dramatically, increasing productivity.
What size and type of bulk containers will I be filling?
Another crucial consideration when choosing a bulk bag filler, naturally, is the bulk bag itself. Most FIBCs have the following things in common:
- They're square in shape.
- They're constructed from thick, interwoven strands of polypropylene plastic fabric and are inherently flexible.
- They have four bag loops, one each corner, to fasten to the support frame when filling.
However, there can be variances in the following areas:
- Size: The standard we use for our bulk bag filling stations is 44" wide x 44" deep x 60" tall, but FIBCs are made in a wide range of sizes.
- Loop attachment method: Are the bag loops rod-supported, or is each loop attached independently?
- Inlet style: FIBCs can be either open top or equipped with a filling spout, usually 14" in diameter. The filling spout contains dust and debris by forming a tight seal around the fill tube, either via a mechanical clamp or pneumatically.
If your bulk bag filling station needs to accommodate different sizes of FIBCs, or different container types altogether (e.g. rigid bins, bulk boxes), we'll need to add provisions to adjust for quick changeover. The inlet type will be determined by production volumes (e.g. pneumatic inflation with air displacement for fastest filling) and the material processed (e.g. fine particulates necessitating a fill spout) — we'll touch on that next.
What kind of material(s) will I be filling my bulk bags with?
The category of "dry bulk solids" encompasses a huge breadth of materials, and with that an even larger range of physical properties. You'll want to note attributes such as:
- Particle size: coarse or fine
- Particle density: weight per volume
- Moisture content: certain materials may fluidize under certain conditions, even though classified as a dry bulk solid
- Abrasiveness: will the material physically wear away at contact surfaces?
- Corrosiveness: will the material chemically wear away at contact surfaces?
- Temperature requirements (if applicable)
- Attrition: the tendency of particles to break down or aerate
- Angle of repose: the angle at which particles will pile up as a bulk bag is filled
Recall that our goals here are to fill the bulk bag fully, efficiently, and safely. Let's suppose we're engineering a bulk bag filling solution around a particle density issue. If the material is especially dense, the bulk bag filler frame may need additional reinforcement to handle the additional weight per volume. Conversely, if the product is less dense, we might add vibration to pack more particles in the same space. Getting the most out of your investment means getting the most into your bulk bag!
Bulk Filling Systems from ETS
Erie Technical Systems offers a robust array of bulk filling solutions scalable to your volume and adaptable to your application. We look forward to being your partner in upping your productivity and growing your business.