A paste filler is a filler designed to fill viscous products, thicker than a liquid, a fluid that flows slowly and with difficulty, for example: honey or peanut butter.
Piston fillers bear an outward resemblance to volumetric liquid fillers the two should not be confused. Volumetric fillers have pumps for measuring the volume of the fill while piston fillers have pistons and cylinders designed for pressure. Piston fillers have cylinders with heavy gauge walls and husky pistons to push viscous product. Often the container is filled directly from the cylinder with just a short right angle spout, although sometime there are high pressure hoses that run from the cylinders to the spouts.
Straight Line Piston Fillers
The straight line piston filler traces its history back to the end of the Nineteenth Century when the Elgin Filler Company was founded. It provided fillers predominantly for the paint industry but it came to be used for all sorts of viscous products, including food products. The piston filler is propelled by an electric motor that turns a crank which translates rotary motion into horizontal motion. The crank moves a push rod which drives a piston back and forth inside a horizontal cylinder. There is usually a hopper above. The cylinder draws product in on the back stroke and pushes it into the container on the power stroke. This type of filler is suited for any thick fluid but is not ideal for thin, watery fluids.
The Elgin filler was typically produced in single, dual and four head configurations. With a multi-head Elgin filler, bottles run on a conveyor under the filling heads. When a row of bottle is under the filling heads, the piston moves forward and the bottles are filled. With a four-head filler, four bottles are filled at a time. After they are filled, they are taken away while four more bottles are allowed under the filler. Elgin fillers are numerous on the used market and are still produced by Cozzoli.
Another company producing this type of filler is Geyer. Geyer was founded in 1914 by John F Geyer of Philadelphia who had worked in a locomotive plant. The mechanism of a straight line piston filler in operation actually looks somewhat like a locomotive with a push rod rising and falling on a crank (except that the push rod operates the piston rather than vice versa). Geyer fillers are still produced by the Geyer family under the name Packaging Enterprises Inc.
There also used to be a company named Hope that produced fillers similar to the Elgin but with as many as ten heads. Hope fillers are no longer produced but there are still many on the used market.
In the 1930’s FL Burt of California began manufacturing piston fillers. His company eventually became Simplex Corporation, which still exists. Simplex produces piston fillers of a simple, clean design and they have become quite popular. They are available powered in an electric motor-powered version and also a version powered by pneumatic pistons.
Rotary Piston Fillers
Rotary piston fillers were originally developed for the canning industry. They operate in a similar manner to inline piston fillers except that the cylinders are mounted vertically on a rotary turret. Since they are continuous motion, they operate at a higher speed than straight line fillers. The pistons ride on a circular cam and, as the turret rotates, the cam pushes them up, filling the cylinder with product, and then down, pushing the product into the containers. Creams, pastes and even ground meat and dog food are filled in cans and glass jars with rotary piston fillers.
For many years, the leading manufacturer of rotary piston fillers was Pfaudler Corporation of Rochester, NY. It was a division of the Pfaudler tank company but was later taken over by Pneumatic Scale and is now part of Barry Wehmiller. When Pfaudler divested the filler operation, a new company, Elmar industries, started up in nearby Buffalo, NY. Elmar is now the largest manufacturer of this type of filler, in fact, they claim to be the world’s largest manufacturer of fillers.
Other competitors over the years have been Votator, which was a division of the heat exchanger company, and M&S, a division of FMC. MRM Elgin produced a rotary piston filler it is still produced by Cozzoli. All of these brands can be found on the used market, however, the only ones still being produced in the USA are Elmar and Cozzoli MRM Elgin. I believe Elmar handles Votator fillers and the Pneumatic Scale division of Barry Wehmiller rebuilds Pfaudler fillers.
Nineteenth Century French impressionist painters kept their paints from drying out by rolling them in tubes of thin metal with a crimp one end and a cork in the other. At the turn of the Twentieth Century, executives in the emerging toothpaste industry saw the advantages of this type of container for their product and they provided the first mass market for the collapsible tube. The early toothpaste tubes were made of zinc and lead but, eventually, aluminum became the metal of choice. (In later years, plastic and polyethylene/metal laminates would largely replace metal in most tubes).
In the 1920’s Kalix-Dupuy Company of France (now Citus Kalix) began manufacturing machinery to mechanize the filling and sealing of metal tubes. Then a machinist named Gerhard Ahrens began building similar machines in Sweden. The Ahrens Company would eventually become Arenco. In 1980, Arenco separated its tube filler manufacturing from its other operations and named the new division Norden. Around that time, two Italian companies, one named Comadis and the other Unipac (now part of the Romaco group) also entered the market. Machines made by Kalix, Arenco/Norden, Comadis and Unipac are still produced and are all found on the used market today.
A tube filler consists of a series of pucks laid out on a racetrack-shaped conveyor. The tubes arrive with the caps screwed on and the bottoms open and are placed in the pucks cap side down. The tubes are conveyed to a piston filler that fills them. Then they are moved to the sealing section. The type of seal depends on the tube material. For metal tubes, there is a folder/crimper, for plastic tubes, there is a hot jaw sealer and, for laminate tubes, there is a hot air sealer that blows heat into the tub and melts the polyethylene inner layer.