Think for a moment about the trust we place in the people and companies that package the products we consume. Whether we are feeding our newborn child a spoonful of baby food, treating an eye infection with prescription eyedrops, or preparing food in a commercial setting that must pass strict health inspections. We assume that each container we open will be free of dust, grit and any other impurities.
Maintaining high sanitation standards in your production line is a smart business practice overall. But in many specific industries, the cleanliness of your containers is of even greater importance for the well-being of your customers, and the quality of your product. The markets that demand thoroughly rinsed, sanitized bottles, include any food or beverage industries; luxury items like fine liquor, which should have a clean, attractive appearance; pharmaceuticals with strict regulations designed to safeguard the public health; or potent substances that could be adversely affected by even the slightest contamination, including essential oils and cannabis products.
Contaminants can enter your empty containers in a number of ways; from breakage or cross-contamination occurring at the factory where they are produced, dust and dirt settling in them during transit and storage, to people transferring germs and grime to them as they are handled. To get containers free of any of these impurities, packagers use rinsers to clean them out before any product is put in. Rinsers come in two categories – wet rinsers and air rinsers – and they can be customized to accommodate many different production needs.
Different types and stages of rinsing
Rinsing may be done with one, or a combination of different agents, which include; water, air, ionized air, additional product, or special solutions. Depending on your production needs, your rinsing stage may include a pre-rinse treatment, regular wash, sanitizing stage, and/or a finishing rinse.
In general, bottles are held in place either by the operator or with clamps. The containers are inverted, nozzles are inserted into the openings, and a stream of rinsing liquid is sprayed in. Then either the process repeats with a different rinsing liquid, or the bottles are then released and allowed to drip dry.
Manual wet rinsers can clean one or two bottles at a time. The operator sets up the bottles by hand and uses a foot pedal to eject fluids from the nozzles into the containers, washing out any debris. Semi-automatic bottle washers still require an operator setting up the bottles, but they are well-suited to cleaning a greater number of bottles at once, as well as handling larger containers, such as four or five-gallon bottles that may be meant for bulk ingredients for the food service industry. Depending on the equipment, different rinse stages can be programmed into a single operation.
Automatic wet rinsers can handle larger production runs at faster speeds. The bottles are sorted into position through an automated conveyance system where grippers hold them inverted by their necks. While each bottle is passed over a rinse basin, it is individually washed out with high pressure jets of fluid. A different conveyance system then transports them to the next station.
Air rinsers – or bottle vacuums clean out containers without the use of liquids. In this process, bottles are indexed beneath the rinser nozzles. These nozzles have both ionized air-jet and vacuum sources. The bottles are given bursts of ionized air that dislodge any foreign particles. These particles are then suctioned out by the vacuum system. In order to create an effective seal, you will need to consult with your equipment manufacturer to match the nozzle precisely to your container.
Air rinsing has the advantage of reducing water usage, and nitrogen gas can be substituted for ionized air to preserve the shelf life of certain perishable ingredients.
Questions to ask your packaging manufacturer:
- What are the safety standards in my industry?
- What is my target production rate?
- Would a wet rinser or an air rinser be better for me?
- What rinsing agent is best suited for my product?
- How will the size and shape of my containers affect my options?
- Can this rinser grip my containers securely and safely?
- Will I set the bottles by hand, or will I need an automated conveyance system?
- What machine height will best fit into my production system?
Let Apex Help You
Apex offers all of our clients customized solutions to meet their filling needs. Call us at 219-575-7493 or visit our page here to learn more about how automation can help you meet your sanitation requirements.