Reducing costs, a constant goal for the pharmaceutical industry, is even more important during the current economic crisis. Yet the efficiency and integrity of manufacturing processes must be maintained, and so must product quality. One way to achieve these ends is to incorporate automation into the production cycle. This month's featured products reduce the need for operator intervention and provide reliable performance. The first product, an automated sample-storage unit, protects temperature-sensitive drugs. The second is a vibratory device that improves the flow of cohesive materials. The third product, which is appropriate for the end of the manufacturing cycle, is a robotic case packer that offers data and control over the packing process.
Storage unit offers versatile sample picking
RTS Life Science (Manchester, England) has introduced its "A2" automated sample-storage unit, which enables users to store and pick 0.3-, 0.75-, and 1.4-mL tubes. The device also stores plates and vials. Operators can order the device to cherry pick individual samples to move to an output rack, which is held within the store until the user requests it to be dispatched. The store and picking station are maintained at the same temperature, which can be as low as –20 °C. Unpicked samples are not exposed to higher temperatures.
The A2 store has a small footprint and holds as many as 76,800 microtubes or 1000 plates. Three A2 units can be linked together with one picking station. The units are easy to install and move and can feed downstream or upstream automation systems directly. The A2 units can be used for quality-assurance applications.
A2 sample-storage unit RTS Life Science, www.rtslifescience.com
Redesigned robot improves troubleshooting
ESS Technologies (Blacksburg, VA) has redesigned its "Model V 30" robotic case packer to enhance control and improve troubleshooting. The V 30 robot incorporates Allen-Bradley's "Kinetix 6000" servo drives and "ControlLogix" programmable automation controller (PAC). Users can retrieve status readings from the servo drives and control the robot from the PAC. The ControlLogix device detects faults and alerts operators to problems.
Model V 30 robotic case packer ESS Technologies, www.esstechnologies.com
The redesigned V 30 packer requires few replacement parts to be stocked, which simplifies maintenance. The robot offers fast changeover because it can handle new products after minor adjustments.
Smart device improves material flow
K-Tron Process Group (Pitman, NJ) recently introduced its "ActiFlow" material flow aid. Using weight data from K-Tron's "Smart Force" transducers, a patent-pending control algorithm adjusts the output of the ActiFlow device to maintain consistent flow in the hopper, according to Jay Daniel, director of global research and development. The ActiFlow unit can thus prevent bridging or rat-holing in cohesive materials.
ActiFlow material flow aid K-Tron Process Group, www.ktronprocessgroup.com
The ActiFlow machine is designed for a gravimetric feeding system. Together with the K-Tron Control Module, the Smart Force Transducers filter out the vibration caused by the ActiFlow to ensure accurate weighing. Unlike arch breakers or flexible liners, the ActiFlow unit does not contact the product or present a contamination risk.
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