What is a Bowl Feeder? A bowl feeder, also known as a bowl feeding system, is means to accurately sort and orientate components. It normally forms part of a manufacturing or packing process, passing on the items at a specific feed rate.

They are typically found at the start of a manufacturing line, an operator placing a number of parts into a bowl or reservoir. The vibratory bowl feeder then sorts and orientates the components, these then being fed into the first step in the production line.

Why would a business need a bowl feeder?

Manufacturers and those providing packing services use bowl feeders to reduce the amount of manual labour that would otherwise be required, manual sorting being not only time consuming but is also liable to have a high error rate.

With a bowl feeder, the operator is only required to load the components into the bowl feeder and then they are free to complete other operations.

Bowl Feeding Systems are not new, but they are still a highly cost effective option when compared to using manual operators. Newer technology like picking robots is available but these are much more expensive and themselves often need some form or sorting device to spread the components out, so that the robot can pick them effectively.

One of the latest developments in the bowl feeding arena is what they call check bowls. These are needed where parts need to be checked to ensure that they meet the specified tolerance before they are introduced into the manufacturing process.

This process involves the components passing a camera or sensor, these detecting any components are incorrect. The components that fail this test are removed to ensure that only the right components are passed on, or packed.

Bowl Feeding systems perform a large number of important functions in manufacturing and distribution processes. It’s not just about assembling parts, bowl feeders also being used in the quality control stages. In this instance to check that the parts are OK before being sent to the next stage in the process.

What kind of efficiency can businesses expect to achieve by using bowl feeders?

Basically, bowl feeders increase efficiency by being able to work at speed, whilst being accurate and reliable.

Experience has shown that Bowl Feeders are normally twice as efficient as the  manual alternative, a part of the reason being that a mechanised process can achieve a consistency that an operator simply cannot match.

Even the most diligent operator will make mistakes, miss components that don’t meet the required specification, or simply slow down as they get tired.

However, the overall efficiency is also dependent on the quality of the components that are being fed into the system. Introducing components that are of the wrong tolerance can cause jams and thus impact efficiency negatively.  But, if you are loading components that are the right shape, size and weight a bowl feeder will consistently sort and orientate those components for as long as required.

Common challenges that businesses face with bowl feeders?

Bowl feeding systems are pretty durable pieces of equipment, there being very little that can go wrong with them. No moving parts are involved, just a current that runs through it that causes it to vibrate.

So as long as your bowl feeders are calibrated correctly from the start they should run for years.

Users that aren’t competent with the kit is one of the main problems. For instance they may overfill the bowl feeder with components, or use the bowl feeder to store components. This is likely to cause jams.

Another issue is how the operator reacts to a jam. If they decide that there is a jam, or that the feed rate isn’t right or think that there is some problem with the bowl they tend to turn them off. This is not the correct action. Typically if the bowl is jamming it will just need a minor adjustment.

The biggest enemy of any bowl feeding system is oil. Bowl feeders rely on vibration for the components to feed through the bowl, so if any oil gets into the bowl, the components can’t grip on that surface and the sorting process will fail.

The only other issue is wear and tear, this causing the calibration settings to be lost. This does not happen very often, but it does need to be taken into account.

How do you go about specifying a bowl feeder?

Where a bowl feeder is being used the first time, the size, shape, weight and material of the components, the space that is available, and the desired feed-rate are good starting points.

>> For more information on bowl feeders please see https://www.sandfieldengineering.com/what-is-a-bowl-feeder/