A new year is a good time to look forward as well as backward. New developments in 2012 will support the 10 major trends of
2011, which include increased automation, particularly for quality-control functions; implementation of serialization and
traceability technology; adoption of anticounterfeiting measures; new choices in blister material; braille on labels; improvements
in cold-chain practices; greater use of prefilled syringes and single-use product-contact parts; rising interest in stick
packs; and stronger emphasis on sustainable processes, packaging, and logistics (see "Sustainability Outside the Box" in the
October 2011 issue of Pharmaceutical Technology).
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).