Comparing Feeding Technologies

Feeding systems are designed to accumulate and convey oriented parts to downstream packaging equipment. Today’s automated packaging lines are growing in complexity, and the success of these lines is often dependent on expert product handling.

To prepare product for downstream processing, it must be sorted, oriented, allocated, and positioned quickly and accurately, all without product damage.

Here we will compare two standard pieces of feeding equipment, the vibratory bowl and the centrifugal bowl, as well as introduce an innovative new machine called the VersaSort. Each machine suits different feeding applications.

Vibratory Bowls

Electro-magnetically generated vibrations produce movement in the bowl forcing product to move up a radial, inclined track. The product moves in small jumps along the circular track of the feeder, encountering tooling that is designed to sort and orientate the parts in a consistent position. The track dimensions and tooling are dependent on the shape of the product, specifically the product’s center of mass in relation to its center of volume. Because of this, the vibratory bowl is best suited for products with asymmetric shape – such as syringes with one heavy end.

Pros

  • Vibratory bowls are suitable for many applications – tooling can orientate a wide variety of part shapes and the systems themselves are quite durable, making them suitable for heavy metal parts
  • Vibratory bowls come at a relatively low price point in relation to other feeders
  • They take up little floor space

Cons

  • While vibratory bowls are suitable for many applications, they are inflexible in that mechanical tooling limits each bowl to just one product or family of similar products
  • This feeder works at a slower speed and rate than other feeders
  • Vibratory bowls can cause damage to sensitive products due to vibrations, i.e. electronics
  • Vibratory bowls can be noisy to operate

Centrifugal Bowls

Centrifugal feeders consist of a center disc mounted to a bowl. The disc and the bowl rotate independently of each other at variable speeds. Product is delivered to the rotating bowl from a bulk feeder. Centrifugal force brings the product to the raised edge of the feeder disc and forces it past tooling designed to move the products into a common orientation. Additional tooling will reject any product that is not orientated correctly and that product will recirculate in the bowl.

Pros

  • Centrifugal bowls can process product at much higher rates than vibratory bowls
  • Less damage than vibratory bowls due to no vibration
  • Quieter to operate than vibratory bowls

Cons

  • Centrifugal bowls subject heavy products to quite a bit of centrifugal force. Some products (such as electronics) cannot stand up to that force without risking damage
  • Centrifugal feeders rely on large diameter bowls to generate enough force to move heavy products – taking up valuable floor space
  • Centrifugal bowls often subject product to recirculation within the bowl. Recirculation is inefficient and subjects the product to cosmetic scuffing and damage

The VersaSort

The VersaSort is an innovative product feeder that relies on counter moving conveyor belts to move products linearly. The bulk product is fed onto the first conveyor belt, is carried through a 180 degree turn and is picked up by a second conveyor belt. By adjusting the angle, orientation and speed of both belts, the VersaSort gently singulates bulk products and organizes them for downstream processes.

Gentle handling is key –the VersaSort was developed in response to customers needing to feed delicate products at high speed without damage. Some products cannot stand up to vibrations or centrifugal force - the VersaSort may be a better fit for these sensitive products such as USBs, ammunition or vials.

In addition to force, centrifugal and vibratory feeders often subject products to recirculation within the bowl. Recirculation is inefficient and subjects the product to damage… not to mention additional wear and tear on the equipment itself. This is where the VersaSort shines – when product is fed at the correct speed, it will yield more rate than other feeders.

The VersaSort’s non-chordal design allows for more flexible tooling options than bowl feeders. It’s also much easier for vision inspection sensors to accurately pick up on product features. The linear design of the VersaSort ultimately makes product transfer to secondary operations smoother – some products just travel better on flat belt vs on a curved bowl. Think of products such as USBs - they are rectangular, relatively heavy and easily damaged. The USB travels much more smoothly on a flat conveyor belt that in does through a C-bowl.

non-chordal design moves product more smoothly

And finally, the VersaSort is compact - products are carried on a series of precisely configured, counter flowing conveyor belts, which takes up significantly less floor space than large bowl feeders.

Questions on what type of feeder would work best for your application? We'd be happy to answer your questions. Call MGS at (763) 425-8808 or email us at info@mgsmachine.com

Designing Trays for Automated Denesting Coesia sells multiple packaging technologies to Swiss American