Manufacturing Case Studies

In by 9, out by 5 – Rapid evaluation of Tide® bottle filling

This article, describing how FLOW-3D was used to model the filling of a new Tide bottle design, was contributed by John McKibben – Technical Section Head, The Procter and Gamble Company.

Imagine it is 9:00 in the morning and you get an urgent e-mail.

“We just realized that one of our new Tide® bottle designs fills onto the handle and may have an issue on our filling equipment. We don’t have any prototype bottles – and won’t for several weeks. The designers and consumers love the look of the design, but the way it fills could be a show stopper for our production facilities.”

What Would You Do?

Bottle geometry

Figure 1: Bottle geometry

When I was presented with this situation, I started responding by asking for a stereo-lithography (.stl) file of the 3D geometry (Figure 1) and I would see what I could do. I knew that FLOW-3D could use the .stl file to input the geometry and should be able to solve the free-surface problem for the filling. I expected this to give good qualitative understanding of the potential issues, but was a little uncertain about how accurate it would be for this application.

Setting up and Running the Simulation

About 1:00 in the afternoon, I received the geometry files, flowrates, and fluid properties. Within a few hours the simulation was up and running, delivering preliminary results. I invited my customer over to take a quick look at the results and he brought along his “boss’s boss” to take a look too. So, by 5:00 in the evening, we were looking at the preliminary results and determined that the original concern wasn’t an issue.

Bottle filling simulation

Figure 2: Filled results

The results did pose a few other questions however. Filling onto the handle created a lot of breakup of the incoming fluid jet. I knew this would increase the amount of entrained air and foam (we are filling laundry detergent after all). I decided to test the FLOW-3D air entrainment model. This model had been originally developed for turbulent jets, and I was uncertain how well it would perform when looking at this laminar flow problem.

Figure 2 shows results of the bottle filling model with and without the air entrainment model. Notice that there is a significant increase in the fill level when the entrained air is included. Notice that the entrained air doesn’t force fluid out of the top of the bottle, but it is close enough that we need to confirm the air entrainment accuracy. Figure 3 compares the air entrained level with images from an experiment run several weeks later (once prototype bottles were available). The qualitative agreement of the jet breakup and fill levels are excellent and provided confirmation that the simulation was sufficiently accurate to screen bottle designs.

Bottle filling simulation and validation against experiment

Figure 3: Experimental comparison