Bottling systems—central mechanical engineering in the beverage industry

Around 1,350 billion liters of packaged beverages were consumed worldwide in 2021, [1] the majority of which were brought onto the market in bottles. The packaging technology for beverages is one of the most important topics for every bottler, because without high-performance bottling systems it would not be possible to supply the global market. There is also a need for the right technology for small, medium and large services: At drinktec, manufacturers will show which filling technology is best suited for which beverage.

Filling technology at a glance
Volumes of beverages sold per region
drinktec—All providers of filling lines for beverages
drinktec—Tickets from €34 per day
drinktec—Supporting program: future trends for the bottling of beverages

Filling technology at a glance

Which filling machines are used for which beverages?

The filling machines are designed as either linear fillers or rotary fillers.

Beverage quality, performance, precise filling quantities and flexibility for various bottle or can formats are the most important criteria when selecting a filling machine.

Linear fillers and rotary fillers

In the case of a linear filler, the bottles are transported in groups in straight lines by a machine on a conveyor belt, then positioned under the filling valve, stopped and filled. The machines generally work in a synchronized way and are typically used for the following performance range. The main area of application for this filling technology is liquid foods—such as ketchup, oil, honey, etc.

Incidentally: drinktec offers a comprehensive overview of the manufacture and further processing of plant-based and animal oils and fats in the special show oils+fats.

Meanwhile, in rotary filling machines, bottles are filled in a carousel motion. The filling machine with the bottles rotates under the filling valve. Thanks to this circular setup, a large number of bottles can be filled in continuous operation, thereby achieving high performance.

For stand-up pouches, pillow pouches or Tetra Paks (carton packaging)—in other words, not pre-formed packaging—there are other machine concepts. These packagings are straightened up or shaped and filled in the machine, then sealed tight with sealing devices that are arranged directly in the machine.

Filling principle

Depending on the product features, the machines operate under different pressure conditions (normal pressure, low vacuum, high pressure or high vacuum). For beverages containing CO2, for example, a high-pressure filling machine is always used, as otherwise the CO2 in the beverage would escape during the filling process.


How is the filling capacity reached in a bottle or can?

The filling capacity that is bottled in a can or bottle is determined by the volume. This is done with measuring devices (flow measurement), with dosing units in the filler, by measuring time or by reaching a defined filling level in the bottle.

Meanwhile, other systems integrate a weighing unit into the bottle plate in order to determine the correct content of the container by its weight.

How is a beverage bottling system built?

A rotary bottling machine is made up of two assemblies: the ground frame and the filler top. The ground frame comprises all elements for transporting the bottles in the filler, the machine frame including drive system, and the filler infeed turntable, which separates the filling machine from the drive technology from underneath. Machines without an infeed table use servo drive technology and are designed without mechanical drive components.

The filler top consists of the media rotary distributor, which supplies the product tank in the filler via a downtake tube. The most important assemblies in the filler top are the filling valves with auxiliary equipment arranged under the product tank and the container guides (lifting plates or neck handling clamps) that place the bottles precisely below the filling valves.

How do you find the right bottling system?

Decision-making criteria when selecting a bottling system include, for example, the planned bottling performance (e.g. from 2,500 bottles per hour to 80,000 bottles or cans per hour), the type and size of the container, the product properties (e.g. containing CO2 or still, with pulp or fibers), and the conductivity and viscosity of the product.

A reference bottle is defined for the planning of the filling machine, which is used to determine the performance: The planned performance could, for example, be 20,000 bottles per hour, based on a 0.5 liter Euro bottle. If other bottle formats are also used, such as 0.33 liter bottles, a higher performance can then also be calculated for these types of bottle.

Well-known manufacturers of bottles, cans and other containers can get to know each other at drinktec. You can find an overview of the registered exhibitors in the Exhibitor Directory.

Which machines are used in the bottling line in addition to filling machines?

Sealing machinery is usually integrated into the filling machine. This way, the bottles are only transported without a cap for a short time and the high quality of the product can be maintained.

In the case of reusable bottle lines, an empty bottle inspector is positioned directly before the filling machine. Line manufacturers generally set up a buffer track after the bottling machine in order to temporarily store the supply of bottles in the line in case of disruptions in individual machines. Next up, on this buffer track, is the labeling machine, which attaches labels to the bottles. Cold glue or hot glue technology can be used here, as can self-adhesive labeling technology.

What is meant by hygienic design?

Hygienic design is a prerequisite for secure products. The beverage can only have a long shelf life and be available to consumers at high quality if strict hygienic standards are met when it is bottled. The systems are therefore planned according to hygienic design criteria. This prevents the accumulation of microorganisms in the bottling system that could harm the product. These criteria include:

  • Designing the surfaces inside the machines in such a way that no puddles of product or cleaning agents can form (self-draining)
  • Designing the tubes in such a way that no product or media residue can collect and accumulate in dead spaces
  • Using materials such as stainless steel that can withstand high loads from temperature and water, and are resistant to corrosion
  • Designing gap-free connections for components, and designing their sealing surfaces and sealing qualities for all operating conditions and temperatures

Expert committees around the world—organized in the EHEDG Design Group—are working on these criteria and carrying out trainings and checks in order to guarantee high product security through technical measures.

Bottling systems for small services

Small beverage manufacturers—such as pub breweries or craft brewers—require small and compact filling machines for their production quantities. Depending on the size of the bottle, these systems have a performance range of 1,000-5,000 bottles per hour. They mostly differ from large filling machines by having fewer options for filler control and—depending on the provider and model—by having less flexibility in terms of the types of bottles that can be processed.

Global sales volumes of soft drinks per region

Quelle: Euromonitor/VDMA, 2022
Million liters 2021
Million liters World 2021 714.441
Million liters Asia-Pacific 2021 203.347
Million liters Near East and Africa 2021 132.652
Million liters North America 2021 128.647
Million liters Western Europe 2021 107.647
Million liters Latin America 2021 92.796
Million liters Eastern Europe 2021 44.575
Million liters South-west Pacific / Australasia 2021 4.778

Global sales volumes of alcoholic drinks per region

Million liters 2021
Million liters World 2021 246,229
Million liters Asia-Pacific 2021 82,397
Million liters Western Europe 2021 42,253
Million liters Latin America 2021 38,471
Million liters North America 2021 34,235
Million liters Eastern Europe 2021 26,253
Million liters Near East and Africa 2021 19,032
Million liters South-west Pacific / Australasia 2021 3,587

drinktec—all providers of filling lines for beverages

At drinktec, you can meet lots of companies offering innovative and modern bottling systems for beverages and liquid food.

Find out about all the exhibitors—in the drinktec Exhibitor Directory.

Visit drinktec 2022 and find out about the solutions and trends in filling and packaging technology. Tickets from just €34 per day!

Secure tickets now!

Future trends for beverage bottling

The drinktec supporting program offers valuable insights and information about innovative solutions and new developments in the beverage industry, and on the topic of bottling systems. The broad spectrum of topics offers lots of inspiration for sustainability in beverage manufacturing, digital solutions, water management and beverage innovations. For example:

Line management systems

The efficiency of bottling systems can be greatly improved with software solutions: The topics here are job order planning and daily line planning, line supply, track-and-trace, maintenance planning, personnel and shift planning.

September 13, 2022, 10:00 a.m. – inspiration hub C6
FT System Davide Pellegrini
Digital Factory 4.0: from quality data to optimizing bottling line efficiency

September 15, 2022, 3:00 p.m – inspiration hub C6
AGR Sudha Jebadurai
Manual vs. Automated Process Control – Prepared for the Future?

Tethered caps – for avoiding plastic waste in the environment

Anyone who would like to find out more about variants of the new caps will find an informative picture gallery in the article “Tethered caps: Bottle and cap are inseparable”.

As of 2024, caps will have to be firmly attached to single-use beverage packaging in accordance with the Regulation 2019/904 Single Use Plastics. This is intended to reduce the pollution of the environment through littering and increase the recycling of plastics – in this case caps.

At drinktec, the manufacturers of machines and their accessories are already offering the necessary technology to use the appropriate caps by 2024.

Bottle-to-bottle recycling – recycled PET for beverage bottles

PET made from previously recycled beverage bottles is a valuable raw material that is well suited for recycling and reuse in the beverage industry. With their bottle-to-bottle recycling systems, exhibitors at drinktec are offering all of the process steps to clean, wash and decontaminate the PET of single-use PET bottles. The result: high-quality PET flakes or PET pellets for mixing with virgin PET.

More info at inspiration.hub@drinktec
September 15, 2022, 11:30 a.m. – inspiration hub A3
Starlinger Paul Niedl
The art of Bottle-to-Bottle recycling

Stay up to date and visit the world’s leading trade fair for the beverage and liquid food industry. Secure your ticket for electronica 2022 now!

Trade fair
Exhibition sectors & Fairgrounds map

Exhibition sections at drinktec: process technology, filling and packaging technology, process automation, engineering, control and IT solutions.

Exhibition sectors
Supporting program
Supporting program—drinktec 2022

Read more about the broad drinktec supporting program around the main topics of Sustainable Production & Packaging, Consumer World & Product Design,...

Supporting program
Trade fair
The drinktec Solution Directory

The right solution for every problem.

Solution directory