An innovative system ensures that caps for shampoo bottles are correctly aligned prior to installation.

A shampoo manufacturer needed to feed oval caps to its bottling line. The caps come in three sizes and have to be fed at a rate of 40 to 60 parts per minute, depending on their size.

The cap has a hinged lid, which is depressed with the thumb to dispense the product. For the capping machine to work, each cap must be correctly oriented, with the hinged lid facing a certain direction. “The physical difference between the hinge side of the cap and the thumb indentation side is so slight, that we knew we couldn’t rely on fixed bowl tooling to select the part orientation,” explains Mike Stamm, general manager of Custom Feeder Co. “There would still be the risk of a backwards part getting through.”

To solve the problem, Custom Feeder’s engineers designed a mechanical orienter that would turn backwards parts into good parts. The bowl orients the caps so they lie open-side down as they enter the feed track. As the parts slide down the track, they enter the orienter. If the part is correctly oriented, it passes through to the capper. If the cap is backwards, the orienter rotates it 180 degrees. “We use a mechanical stop, sensors and timers to determine if a part is backwards,” says Stamm. “A programmable relay controls the operation. The entire system is fully self-contained and requires only a 120-volt, 15-ampere receptacle and an 80 psi air line.”

The system achieves 100 percent throughput, in that every part that comes up the bowl reaches the capper. Because the bowl is so efficient, it can be switched off when the upper track is full. This minimizes recirculation of the parts and cuts the average noise ratings of the system. The universal design of the bowl and orienter tooling enable changeover from one cap size to the next in less than 5 minutes.

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Editor’s note: “We Fed It” is a regular series profiling parts feeders for automated assembly. Whether it’s a vibratory bowl, a tray feeder or a flexible robotic system, if you’ve solved a parts-feeding challenge, we’d like to hear about it. Send an e-mail to John Sprovieri, editor of ASSEMBLY, at, or call 630-694-4012.