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DIY bottle filler for lotions and cremes

This will show up in homebrewing but that's not exactly what I'm wanting to do. It's the only thing close to what I'm doing so that's the category it fell into. Sorry.

I want to make a multi bottle filler to fill 12 - 2 oz to 6 oz bottles of skin moisturizer and or sun tan oils and lotions.  

I'm thinking something like a five gallon bucket with an air nipple to pressurize the bucket and force the liqud lotion down into the bottles through a tree with multiple filler tubes. I included a picture for something similar but it's got filler wands for beer and I don't think that will work with thicker lotions. 

If I saw a plan, that would be cool. I think I'm on the right track but haven't figured out how to seal the bucket and control the output of the lotion. Needs a cutoff valve that can be adjusted. Suggestions, comments or something similar or a completed DIY would be great. 


Picture of DIY bottle filler for lotions and cremes
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There are number of ways to move a viscous fluid through a tube, or small opening, and I can think of maybe three or four ways to do this.

Certainly putting pressurized air above your fluid, is one way to make it move, but there are other ways too.

For example, a giant syringe, or a caulking gun, uses a piston inside a cylinder, for to put force on the fluid to be moved.

A pastry bag is even more simple.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pastry_bag

What I mean is, a pastry bag is simple to build, but maybe not simple to use. To use it you literally have to wrestle with it a little bit, and squeeze its contents out using your bare hands.

A peristaltic pump might work also
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peristaltic_pump
Although that might be more complicated mechanically than your original idea of just a big reservoir with an air bubble on top of it.

Regarding this idea of using an air bubble to move your stuff, I can almost picture how I would go about building such a thing.

I don't think I would use a 5 gallon bucket, unless the actual volume of each batch was close to 5 gallons, which is 5*128= 640 fl oz, to put in the same units you mentioned for the containers you want to fill.

What I am saying is, I would not make the reservoir too much bigger than the size of one batch.

Also regarding a seal for a bucket, I imagine this is a ring shaped seal, and that it will be easier to build, the smaller the diameter of the ring.

At the same time it would be nice to have this circular opening at the top of the reservoir big enough that you can fit your arm into it, for to make it easy to clean.

Transparency would also be a nice feature, both for the reservoir, and for the tubing too. That way you could tell, at a glance, which parts are fluid, and which parts are air. And I think this is do-able. Clear vinyl tubing is pretty easy to find. Also a 1 gallon size glass jar, or 1 gallon PET plastic jar with the same shape, I am guessing either of those would work, and be pretty easy to find.

I also am naively assuming your fluid is enough like a liquid that it will flow to the bottom of the reservoir, even if it does so very slowly.

In contrast, if the stuff is so sticky it defies gravity, and stays stuck to the walls of the reservoir, then you might need a reservoir with some moving walls, a design more like the giant syringe, or pastry bag, both mentioned earlier.

Ghostrider13 (author)  Jack A Lopez1 year ago
Thanks Jack, The pastry bag is out. Too hard to manage. The piston idea is what the manufactures use but those are pricy. A caulk gun could work because it has to be loaded with a tube which is similar to the pressure system I'm going to try. The bucket of lotion only comes in a 5 gallon size. I think I'm going to try the pressurized system by using a food grade bucket and lid and installing an tire air valve in the lid with a spigot on the bottom of the bucket. I have a pancake compressor so that should be enough to push lotion through to a rack of several bottles. Actuator is the spigot. Open it and fluid flows. Close it and it stops. The compressor will regulate the pressure preventing a blow out.

Wow! So you seriously want to do this in batches of 5 gallons at a time.

I think you can the do plumbing for input air and plumbing for lotion output, both at the top of the bucket. For the lotion output you just make a dip tube that goes to the bottom of the bucket.

To make this all more clear, I will attach a drawing of how I sort of picture this setup in my mind.

Also I am imagining the original lid to the bucket could be replaced with just a rigid sheet of, something, sitting on top of a ring shaped gasket.

That something could be a slab of HDPE, and it turns out the easiest way to obtain a big slab of HDPE is often to buy it as, uh, what they call a, "cutting board",
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cutting_board#Plasti...

one with an area big enough to cover the top of the bucket.

The name for a plumbing fitting that goes through a wall, without leaking, and without the hole through the wall leaking, is called a "bulkhead fitting".

I cannot find a Wikipedia article for "bulkhead fitting". However, I swear it's a real thing, and Google Images(r) has pictures of the same.
https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&tbm=isch&q=bul...

I don't know if you'll actually need real, manufactured, bulkhead fittings, or you might be able make something homemade, that does the same thing.

For the large, ring-shaped seal, to the top of the bucket, there needs to be a downward force on the top of the bucket equal to, or greater than, the area of the top of the bucket multiplied by the pressure difference between the inside and outside of the bucket.

The area at the top of a 5 gallon bucket is large. It's approximately a circle with radius, r, equal to 6 inches. So A is pi*r^2 = 3.14*6*6 = 113 square inches. Thus the downward force needed to keep the bucket sealed is about 113 pounds force, per PSI (pounds per square inch) of gauge pressure inside the bucket.

The force required to hold the lid on is proportional to the area of the hole, which is why, earlier, I was suggesting a smaller lid, since this takes less force to seal.

I am hopeful you will only need only a small pressure difference, around 1 PSI, to get the lotion flowing. More pressure than that means a proportionally larger stack of cinderblocks, or lead bricks, or large steel bolts, for to hold down the lid on the bucket.

Regarding the, what you call "spigot", a valve to go on the end of the output tube, there are a couple of choices for that. A ball valve would probably work. A pinch valve would probably work too.

Ball valves,
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ball_valve
you've probably seen at the local hardware monger, in materials like PVC and brass, with seals made out of PTFE.

A pinch valve is what it sounds like.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinch_valve
It is a clamp that pinches a section of flexible tubing, for to stop the flow. Actually a pinch valve would be easy enough to make, if you were already using tubing flexible enough to pinch it closed.

Finally, regarding this idea to build a tree or a manifold that branches out to fill ten bottles at once, I am going to humbly suggest you first build something capable of filling just one bottle at a time, and do this before trying to build the thing that fills ten, or N, bottles in parallel.

fluidfrom5gallonbucket.jpg
Ghostrider13 (author)  Jack A Lopez1 year ago

Hi Jack,

Yes, I'm really serious about this. I don't know if you checked but there have been several requests to create something like this for people working at home. Housewives setting up a second business, disabled folks trying to sqeek out a living and the like. Instructables is a good place to help them even if I decide not to start my business. I'm working on my feasability plan now and the filling and capping machines are an integral part of keeping costs down so I can offer a product that is competitively priced. That being said, you and I will both have the satisfaction of helping a lot of people with their crafts businesses. That's cool. Thank you for brainstorming with me on this.

About your comments:

Your drawing is exactly what I'm thinking. Instead of weight being applied on the top to hold the lid down I am planning to use rachet type tie downs.

For the lid, I think using a sealed lid that comes with food grade containers is more appropriate because they lock onto the bucket to protect freshness.

I may switch to a 3 gallon bucket if that becomes a problem with surface area and pressure. I think there are beer brewing buckets designed for something similar to this. They have to seal in the air from contaminents that cause beer to go bad during the brewing process. (Another hobby)

I like your idea about seeing what is in the bucket. I wonder if I can make a sight level on the exterior or find a bucket with a clear strip to see how much product is left to use. I clear plastic tube should work because liquids are self leveling. I use tubing when I'm trying to build a patio or the like and need to level the form boards. This is much smaller but I think it will work.

I believe that a couple of pounds of pressure should be enough as the lotion is a thick liquid. The viscosity is certainly less than something like motor oil so it should be fine - testing different pressures will prove this out. A ball valve is what I was thinking about when I used the word spigot. Lowes or HD will have something wether it's PVC or brass. I am planning to test it on a single bottle first. If the concept works, then I'll use a piece of PVC and create the tree. First things first for the development.

Next project is a bottle capper that screws the caps on using a power drill on low speed.

Again, thanks. You've helped me a lot. Can't wait to get started on this. I'll let you know when I finish it so you can check out the video.

I think the homebrew suppliers also sell refurbished stainless steel soda kegs, which coincidentally have an interior volume of about 5 gallons. The top has a large ellipse shaped door that seals, and the keg can be pressurized.

I dunno. I thought I'd mention that if you had not considered it already.

Anyway, I wish you luck and success with this endeavor. I am glad I could help with these initial ideas and stuff.

Ghostrider13 (author)  Jack A Lopez1 year ago

I didn't even think about them or a stainless steel system. Great idea. I'll check it out. Thanks again.