Cappers basically put caps onto containers – these can be cans, bottles, bulk containers, or Fitments on other carriers. They can be fully automatic or semi-auto (lacking a cap feeder – or indexing). The automatic Capping machinery was built in 1935 by Resina in Brooklyn, New York . Over the years many refinements and other brands have come and gone, including the original Resina Company, lost to lawsuit and then bankruptcy, and yet many of their cappers are still running along with variants and those bearing the same name. Cappers are broken done into 3 various categories:
Semi-automatic cappers are cappers that usually only torque caps or re-torque. These are used when automatic is not needed ( short runs , limited budgets) or when a cap needs to be retorqued after they have gone through operations that may have loosened them, such as induction sealing.
Chuck cappers use a cap holder or CHUCK to hold the cap and while applying pressure and spin torques a cap onto a container. These range from single chuck to rotary multi head cappers.
Single chuck cappers are used for low speeds or difficult to cap containers that can’t be done using inline quill style cappers. The original Resina S-series screw capper consists of a cap sorting hopper with feed chute to an end which feeds the cap feeder which inserts the cap into the chuck on a spindle that rises and falls as it spins to apply torque.
Many companies made this style capper : Anderson, New Jersey, NEM, Resina , Kalish. The most durable and most used being the Resina S series cappers. Originally these were set up with simple capture fixtures for glass and metal containers, as these containers gave way to plastics dual grippers became the standard. These machines generally needed multiple change parts for different containers and caps. This lead to the advent of inline cappers(less container handling parts), adjustable chutes and end for caps, or elevator sorters ( less change parts for caps).
Rotary chuck cappers apply caps using the same principles but place the containers on rotary pedestals with multiple chucks to apply caps to the container and torque in place. These provide greater speeds, accuracy, and pressure to apply many style caps. Consolidated –Capem Brand were one of original developers of this style and are now part of Berry Wehmiller Corp.
Popular rotary cappers are CAPEM , Pneumatic Scale/ Berry Wehmiller, Arol, Zalkin , US Bottlers and many others. These are usually highly customized to containers and caps requiring many change parts to operate.
Other types of Rotary cappers include trigger, pump , and specialty cap placement machines.
Quill and Inline Cappers:
Inline cappers cap containers utilizing a thru conveyor or over the conveyor(c-frame) , and Strip the cap before torqueing with either quills or belt tighteners. Quills/Belts rather than using a chuck provides for less change parts and greater speeds than single chuck operation. This type of capper uses a sets of opposing wheels(quills) or belts that using friction while pressing against the side of the caps causes screw onto the bottle. Torque is set by pressure, clutching, or time that the containers and caps are in contact with the tightening belts/quills. In order to get the caps onto the container a chute with chute end angles above the incoming containers allows caps to “strip” onto the container for torqueing. This critical operation of stripping and setting the caps onto the threaded container is the essential element that determines success or failure of the capping closure. Many caps and cappers rely on full handling including a “stabilizer” for the first operation capping quills to start the thread and assure placement (this requires custom parts), whereas others uses the drop of faith to seat the caps. When caps were hard plastic or metal and containers were rigid plastic , glass or metal these were simple . Modern containers, foreign suppliers, designer not familiar with capping operations, and cheaper containers have made this capping operation more difficult – forcing packagers to look to Chuck cappers or specialized set ups for inline capping.
Resina led the development of this type of capper , and you can see elements of the original design in MRM, Lazar, New Resina,, and Packwest cappers. These are generally heavy duty and utilize individual quills and set sized sorting rings and chute ends for great control and reliability. We see any of the Resina cappers from the early 1960s that we service are still in operation- and running.
Less expensive inline cappers which utilize Rotary bowls , adjustable chutes and/or chute ends , and no cap handling fixtures like the Kaps-All, Elf, Surekap, have become popular due to ease of use and C frame construction . These utilize unitized tightening drives for the capping quills and fixtures that will eventually wear out, these are good for start ups, cleanliness, and low speed operation.
With the advent of Hot Fill products and specialty Lug Caps – another significant kind of capper is the steam flow capper. This machine is used to place lug-type caps on bottles where an internal vacuum is necessary, often used on food products, such as sauces, jelly , or hot fill pickled or brined products. Development of this capper was led by the White Cap Company of Chicago as the next big market from canning Hot Fill requires less machinery, jars are more aesthically pleasing, and easier to fill and validate . This type of capper applies the caps to bottles using a steam rail in the chute to soften the cap liner on a metal cap with LUG style finish to glass or rigid jars. Many times these are run thru cooling or pasteurizing tunnels to cool products for packing or prevent coring. When the bottles cool, the steam condenses creating a vacuum which along with the PH of the products does not allow bacteria to grow in the product. These lug caps and bottles were developed for higher speed and lesser cost compared to standard continuous thread or Ball type jars. Generally these cappers are sold along with the filling components on a rental basis that includes s creates as more positive resistance against the vacuum and also makes the cap easier to remove.
As rebuilders and resellers, we see a lot of these machines after their initial use in operations:
Some have lots of life left in them, some that were designed for short term usage have very little utility left. We recommend that before a buyer jumps into any machinery that they consider the cost benefits and longevity of the machinery that they install into a line. Generally the largest cost items on any line are the core elements: Unscrambling, Filling, Capping, Labeling, Packaging. Some are subject to continuous improvement and upgrades –mainly electrical or electronics such as PLC or Servo drives. Others are mature technologies like fillers and cappers (although there has been a push to upgrade electronics, and servos , or use weight/metered controls). The best value upgrades that can save packagers the greatest amounts of time and money are usually core of the line – fillers and cappers. Before you spring for new , look at used or reconditioned and ask about the reputation , longevity, and serviceability of machinery for your line.