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Robotic Inspection Module for the Pharmaceutical Industry

Stäubli Robotics

Six-axis robot on inspection duty
 
The development of the RIM (Robotic Inspection Module) by Seidenader Maschinenbau GmbH marks a new chapter in the inspection of pharmaceutical products. A compact Stäubli robot and a pioneering cell layout bring unprecedented flexibility into play, facilitating the automatic inspection of small batches.
 
In extreme cases, a person’s life may depend on the contents of the ampoule just opened by the doctor. Consequently, the highest quality assurance standards apply in the manufacture and packaging of parenterals – sterile pharmaceutical preparations for injection and infusion. When carrying out quality control checks of vials and ampoules, the reliable detection of particles, fibers and fragments plus the recognition of cosmetic and functional defects is paramount.
 
With over 115 years of experience in systems construction for the pharmaceutical industry, the Seidenader Group with factories in Germany and the USA has gained a worldwide reputation. Seidenader Maschinenbau GmbH specializes in inspection solutions for the pharmaceutical industry and offers a complete range of semi-automatic and fully automatic inspection machines for parenterals. The product range starts with table models for small-scale use and culminates in high-performance machines with camera systems and proprietary image processors for high-volume production.

Maximum flexibility in tight spaces
 
The Seidenader portfolio has now been extended to include a newly designed, automated inspection system which sets new standards in terms of flexibility within a confined space and confirms the company’s reputation as an innovator in design. At the heart of the Seidenader RIM (Robotic Inspection Module) is the ultra-compact and highly accurate TX40 model from Stäubli.

The advantage of robotic handling demonstrably lies in the enormous amount of flexibility it affords. Nik W. Seidenader, Managing Director at Seidenader Maschinenbau GmbH: “Our goal was to provide the pharmaceutical industry with an inspection machine that delivers reproducible inspection results for small batches without human intervention. It was therefore necessary to reproduce all the inspection parameters of a production machine in a compact module, i.e. in a highly flexible manner with multiple camera stations, camera angles and lighting. To achieve all of this within a tight space, there really is no alternative to using a robot.”

The list of inspection criteria for parenteral pharmaceutical products and packaging is fairly lengthy and includes detecting the presence of mobile and deposited particles, fibers and fragments in the pharmaceutical materials as well as checking that full measure has been delivered. The process covers liquid, freeze-dried and opaque products. As regards ampoules, inspection for cosmetic defects consists mainly in looking for sealing defects, burn marks and cracks on side walls and bottoms, whereas with vials, the search is for defective caps and crimping. The automatic inspection equipment produced by Seidenader copes with this variety of tasks by employing large rotary machines equipped with large banks of cameras to inspect each product from different angles.
 
Flexible grouping of inspection locations
 
In the latest robotic inspection module, however, all of these tasks are covered in a compact space at three fixed inspection positions, each having up to four cameras. Centrally located within the module, a Stäubli six-axis robot takes care of all handling tasks. Once the products have passed the inspection stations, the TX40 places them on the “good” or “bad” conveyor belt as appropriate.
 
The robot’s time-optimized handling route depends on the specific inspection stations to be visited and the number of inspections necessary. The RIM thus provides a platform that opens up the possibility of multifunctional applications by flexibly grouping the inspection positions to be visited. A double gripper enables various containers, including small ampoules and vials, to be safely grasped with minimal format part changing. Changeover times are in the order of around ten minutes. This allows automated inspection of small batches to be performed economically.
 
With the new flexibility offered by the Robotic Inspection Module, users have the opportunity to develop new formulations for the training of their high-volume inspection systems – all of this with comparatively reduced handling costs and in batches of fewer than 2,000 items. A significant advantage is also gained with the costly test pattern sets that are required for the regular revalidation of high-volume inspection machines – a major bonus that will benefit Seidenader customers worldwide.
 
Seidenader’s decision to opt for the Stäubli TX40 was no coincidence. The robot is compact in design with a range of 400 millimeters, has high positioning accuracy and can be readily integrated into other systems with its user-friendly controls. “The important thing for us was the manufacturer’s high level of expertise in the medical and pharmaceutical industries,” says Nick W. Seidenader. “Stäubli robots are state-of-the-art machines that have been successfully used in these industries for many years. They tick all the boxes with their excellent clean room credentials and guarantee a smooth operation. In addition, the people at Stäubli Bayreuth were very accommodating and willing to assist us in the development of the module. We are very happy with the result.”
 
About Stäubli: Textile machinery, connectors and robotics
Stäubli is a mechatronics solution provider with three dedicated divisions: textile machinery, connectors and robotics. Employing more than 4,000 people, Stäubli is an international group based in Pfäffikon (Switzerland) with offices in 25 countries and agency representation in 50 more.

For further information, please contact:
Stäubli Robotics (Deutschland)
Sonja Koban
Head of Marketing
+49 (0)921 88 32 12
 

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