Servo technology and software are bringing a new level of automation to pharmaceutical packaging. Software not only automates functions, but also simplifies the work of packaging line operators as well as the collection and analysis of productivity data. One new software product oversees multiple quality-control systems on a single packaging line or multiple lines in one or more facilities. A dashboard system and color-coded machine icons on the operator interface quickly alert operators and management to quality problems in real time so remedial action can be taken and downtime can be minimized or eliminated. Remote setup prevents unauthorized changes to settings and errors and supports consistent operation across lines and facilities. The program currently oversees checkweighers, metal detectors, and X-ray inspectors and will accommodate machine-vision systems in 2012 (ProdX software, Mettler-Toledo).Software's potential to simplify operation is particularly evident in machine vision, a technology with a reputation for being difficult to set up, operate, and change over. In one system, Windows-based software oversees as many as four color or monochrome cameras and performs tasks, including inspecting labels, caps, containers, and fill levels, confirming the presence and condition of a tamper ring, and verifying date and lot codes and one- and two-dimensional barcodes. Capable of checking 2000 metal, glass, or plastic containers each minute, the system includes an integrated reject system (TotalVu Sensor vision system with Teledyne Dalsa cameras, Teledyne TapTone).
Serialization and traceability
With pedigree regulations looming or already in place in some countries, interest is high in implementing serialization systems that generate the supporting data. One serialization-ready printer–applicator prints a two-dimensional DataMatrix code and human-readable data on a label before applying it. A built-in camera verifies print quality (BL400VTEXL label printer and application, Marchesini Group). Data transmission, aggregation, and storage is provided by integrated hardware and software (Systech Serialized Product Tracking, Systech International).