New machine vision systems are designed for inspecting primary and secondary packaging for defects.
Machine vision inspection is more powerful than ever. Automated, camera-based systems increase speed and accuracy and eliminate human error, and artificial intelligence allows machines to continually improve inspection performance.
Checking vials and caps
Camera-based systems from Acquire Automation simplify vial counting and check caps. The CountQ vision inspection system automates the counting of vials in trays, eliminating the need for counting manually or with a stencil as well as the duplicate counts generally required by standard operating procedures. The system consists of a linescan camera plus software, adjustable lights, and label printer. Advanced product counting tools enable it to adapt to targets with varying visual characteristics. Standard features include an easy-to-use HMI, report and audit logs, security levels that control access, two-touch changeover, and configurable run modes that increase the system’s flexibility (1).
The CapQ system from Acquire Automation performs a 360-degree inspection of caps up to 38 mm in diameter and 330 mm in heightto check presence, color, height, and skew. It also confirms the integrity of the tamper-evident band and verifies fill level. The stainless steel, NEMA 4X/IP65 inspection unit fits over the conveyor, simplifying integration on existing packaging lines. Advanced software using artificial intelligence enables the system to ignore water droplets and plastic fragment shedding that can skew measurement results and cause false rejects. The system produces reports and audit data for production and inventory records and provides data for continuous improvement programs. Options include a height-adjustable main system enclosure, automatic camera and light adjustments during changeover, and a high-speed reject system (2).
For print inspection, Optel Group offers the HD PrintSafe digital inkjet with built-in 100% web inspection. The serialization-ready system checks artwork, alphanumerics, barcodes, and variable data and can grade print quality. Options include dual and multi-color printing, wide screen for large webs, and additional inspection capability for products inside blisters or trays (3).
Other serialization-ready equipment also integrates machine vision including the TQS Fast Track line from Wipotec OCS. The TQS-LI-Bottle machine, for example, prints, inspects, and labels bottles at a rate of 150/min. Changeover to a new size between 30 and120 mm in diameter and 30 and 200 mm in height takes five minutes (4).
Inspecting glass primary packaging
Machine vision also is used to ensure the quality of the package itself. “…Reducing packaging defects, such as cracks and bruises or even scratches in the glass, as well as particle generation is of high importance,” explains Christoph Döppes, project director New Production Concept Vials, Global Operations at SCHOTT Pharmaceutical Systems, which has partnered with SINCAD, a French engineering company and expert in modular vision control systems.
High-quality glass containers depend on high-quality glass tubing. Döppesreports, “As it is our aim to reach ‘zero defect’ in both tubing and pharma packaging, we moved from statistical quality control to 100% inspection of each FIOLAX tube during the production process. The process known as perfeXion leads to a glass tube that has been completely evaluated.” The Automated Inspection System (AIS) inspects all key surfaces of vials and cartridges and can detect defects invisible to the human eye. Advanced software creates a 3D image of the container based on visual data gathered from multiple cameras with different light settings. “We can therefore analyze the container surface in a more comprehensive way,” explains Feldhaus. Next-generation camera systems, equipped with artificial intelligence, will be able to learn from images of defective products and use that knowledge to independently recognize containers with defects.
Another packaging supplier, family-owned Colbert Packaging, which is celebrating its 60thanniversary in 2019, also has upgraded its quality assurance (QA) capabilities and now provides 100% vision inspection capabilities at all three of its manufacturing facilities. Its Leary Array with LearyVIEW Print QA system, recently installed at its Elkhart, IN, plant detects and rejects folding cartons with quality defects including missing copy, blemishes, streaks, oil spots, or other imperfections. “The new Leary QA system has a camera that scans the entire carton against the approved customer-supplied proof for visual quality defects,” said Nick Stober, Colbert’s Elkhart production manager. Eye C inspection software supports 100% inline inspection at speeds of 400 m/min (1300 ft/min) (5).
1. Acquire Automation, “Acquire Automation’s New CountQ Vision Inspection System Counts and Verifies Trayed Containers and Records Results,” Press Release, March 15, 2019.
2. Acquire Automation, “New Acquire Automation CapQ Vision Inspection System Employs Artificial Intelligence to Increase the Accuracy of Bottle Cap Inspections,” Press Release, Oct. 26, 2018.
3. Optel Group, “HD PrintSafe,” Brochure, 2018.