China: Automatic Fillers Feige Filling Secures Major Chinese Order
The year 2020 has confronted Feige Filling, one of the market leaders for filling equipment, with very special challenges: Within a very tight time frame and under pandemic conditions, seven fully- automatic fillers had to be planned and manufactured for a Chinese customer.
In Ningbo, near the town of Shanghai in China, the world-wide largest supplier of MDI (methylene diphenyl isocyanate) operates a production site. This substance is used in the production of polyurethane and is highly toxic. A health hazard exists especially during processing, as MDI is highly reactive. Greatest care must therefore be taken when commissioning this hazardous material.
For that reason, the Chinese company already relied on the expertise of Feige Filling back in 2017: Two fully automatic drum fillers Integra 86 for high-speed filling according to the most stringent safety standards were put into operation back then. And in the following years, further projects with other customers were added: For example, Feige Filling has succeeded in gaining a foothold on the strongly growing Chinese market and in convincing partners in that country of products “Made in Germany”.
Seven Machines, Ten Months’ Time: A True Feat of Strength
The MDI supplier from China had actually planned to expand to the U.S.A. and to erect a new production site there – but this project fell through due to political developments. So, without further ado, it was decided to expand the capacities in China and the trusted partner from Bad Oldesloe in Northern Germany was brought into the equation: Thanks to its innovative strength and the good previous cooperation, Feige Filling received the award for seven new machines and was thus even able to outdo the strong Chinese competition.
However, the time frame was narrow: By the end of 2020, four new drum fillers and three pallet filling robots including comprehensive conveyor systems and the associated palletisers for MDI and MDI special had to be manufactured. And that was by far not the only challenge, because both the communication with the Chinese customer and the Covid-19 situation confronted the Feige Filling team with special tasks. However, the inventors were yet again able to find the right solutions.
Chinese Mechanical Engineer as Interface
The partner on site is the sister company Haver Technologies Tianjin (HTT), with whom the company from Bad Oldesloe closely cooperates on this project. Both companies are part of the German Haver&Boecker Group and together with their colleagues from Singapore and Malaysia form an international team. Although communication could and still can only take place online due to the travelling restrictions in times of Covid-19, from the beginning there existed at least no language barriers: The reason for this is Haiyang Liao.
Liao has studied mechanical engineering in Germany, then worked in his home country for a while and last signed on at HTT, where he was to represent the interests of the technology sister Feige Filling. The major Chinese contract was placed a few months after he had started his two-year work placement at Feige in Bad Oldesloe. With his knowledge of German and Mandarin, Haiyang Liao was and still is the direct contact for both sides – a key position. Today he works at HTT and accompanies the installation and commissioning of the filling equipment in Ningbo.
Four Integra 86 Drum Fillers for High-Performance Filling
As in 2017, the Integra 86 high-speed system was also part of the order - in no less than four specimen - each in a stainless-steel version. The entire construction plans had to be adapted to the country-specific specifications beforehand and Chinese variants had to be developed, based on the basic model of the Integra 86. In addition, MDI has special requirements: So that the substance does not become solid, it must always be kept at a constant temperature of 40 degree Celsius, which is why the filling valves of the systems are equipped with filling lance heatings.
Each machine is equipped with six stations and can fill 100 bung-type drums per hour, with six drums being simultaneously conveyed through the machine by a chain conveyor in a double and single cycle mode: While two drums are automatically positioned and de-bunged one after the other, two further drums are located at the filling station and another two, already filled drums are at the closing station, where they are bunged and sealed. The system is designed as a special model for dangerous products and offers the greatest possible safety through the fully automatic operation and various features such as the closed filling cabin with lock gates, gas hood at the filling valve and Atex-design.
Three Pallet Filling Robots: Integra 71 in Special Design
In addition to the drum fillers, the customer from China ordered three pallet fillers for the fully automatic and calibrated filling of IBC and drums. Here the models based on the Integra 71 – one of the top-selling machines of Feige Filling – had to be adapted and with that exactly tailored to the requirements of the MDI supplier.
The machine in stainless steel design is also completely enclosed and equipped with automatic lifting gates and an exhaust for hazardous gases. The filling process from opening to closing of the filled containers runs completely automatically. Its special features include a high-resolution camera system that scans the surface and identifies filling openings, a stainless-steel protection cabin and interchangeable filling valves for homogeneous filling.
Control and operation of all the seven systems take place conveniently via the user-friendly Feige touch panel with integrated scale display. The operator can see everything at a glance - from tare checks to flow rate control and fill time monitoring. In addition, the Integra series is characterised by the integrated VPN access – the virtual communication network permits remote maintenance and assistance: a unique advantage in times of Corona.
Remote Support under Pandemic Conditions
At the end of February 2021, the seven filling machines were able to embark on their sea voyage to Ningbo, where they arrived after six weeks. The machines are assembled at short notice before commissioning is due. Normally, engineers from Bad Oldesloe accompany these processes personally, but the Corona virus made travelling impossible.
For this reason, the team from Haver Technologies Tianjin (HTT), including Haiyang Liao, is supervising the work on site and exchanging information with colleagues from Feige Filling via the Internet whenever possible. Everyone is working together in shifts and with great commitment to be able to put the machines into operation as soon as possible. But it looks as if the final acceptance by the German technicians will probably also have to take place digitally.