Pharmaceutical Packaging

Criteria for Choosing the Right Inspection System for Pharmaceutical Packagings

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Such systems have many moving parts and wear parts, which require significant maintenance, and operators’ intervention, and reduces the repeatability of the systems performance. Furthermore, these complex systems can be time consuming to sanitize during product changeover, typically resulting in the loss of hours of production time.

A newer type of mechanical sorting system is the vibratory size grader. Although these systems are still limited to removing defects and foreign tablets based only on size, many of the drawbacks of diverging roller sorter have been resolved with this technology. Vibratory size graders have few moving parts and no rotating parts. Mechanical simplicity reduces maintenance, which lowers the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). These vibratory size graders can be cleared and cleaned in only five minutes, and with fixed hole sizes in the removable decks, the process is fully repeatable and independent of the operator’s skill. Lastly, a vibratory size grader can typically handle up to one million tablets per hour – three times the throughput of a diverging roller sorter.

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Single-File Optical Inspection of Pharmaceuticals

Due to limited throughput and high capital costs, single-file optical inspection systems have not been widely adopted. Only when the need to assure the highest product quality outweighs other commercial considerations – does this technology prevail. These systems, first introduced 20 years ago, are spectacular at detecting and removing foreign tablets, foreign materials and defects based on colour, size and shape. However, low throughput (typically 50,000 tablets per hour), high capital costs and many expensive change-parts have made these systems unviable for most processors. Another drawback is that it often takes up to eight hours to change these systems over.

Blister Packaging Inspection

Many blister packing lines have integrated inspection systems that verify each of the blister pockets has a tablet. As they do not typically verify the colour, size or shape of the tablet in each pocket, they are not effective at detecting and removing blisters with foreign tablets or defects. To assure final product quality, additional inspection should be upstream of the blister packing equipment.

Bulk Optical Inspection System for Pharmaceutical Packaging

Automated optical inspection systems, which have been widely adopted for decades in the food processing, have recently been developed for OTC and regulated tablets. Like single-file optical inspection systems, they use colour cameras to inspect each object’s colour, size and shape. Unlike singlefile optical systems, they need not single-file or orient products prior to inspection.

The new bulk optical inspection systems are highly effective in detecting and removing foreign tablets or matters and defects. Also, at roughly one third of the cost of the single-file systems (based on equivalent capacity), these systems are more affordable than single-file systems. They can handle one million tablets in an hour, and can be cleared and cleaned in less than five minutes during product changeovers.

Benefits of Bulk Optical Inspection

The goal of a bulk optical inspection system is to assure high final product quality while maintaining high production throughput. This is achieved with high resolution colour cameras that are effective in inspecting shape, size and colour. Some bulk optical inspection systems are so effective, they guarantee removal of 100 per cent of foreign tablets, while also removing foreign matters, broken tablets, stained tablets and tablets with scratched coating if the coating is of a different colour than the underlying tablet.

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