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Equipment solutions for printing and verifying codes and combining serialization with aggregation and checkweighing were shown at Interpack 2014.
At Interpack 2014, held from the 8th to the 14th of May in Germany, companies presented their latest innovations and concepts in packaging and processing technologies. For the pharmaceutical industry, key topics that dominated this year’s event were serialization and track-and-trace solutions as organizations make preparations to comply with global legislations that safeguard against medicine falsification.
Printing and verification
Domino launched the F220i fiber-scribing laser for precision marking on a wide range of surfaces, including plastics and metals. The properties of the laser beam can be adjusted to provide a sharper color contrast. Integration of the system into production lines is easy because of its compact size. F220i can be used for static or “on the fly” marking. The flexible i-Tech scan head can be rotated to mark in any direction, in any orientation, in a variety of font sizes, and in both low and high production line speeds. Additional benefits of F220i include its low maintenance, high uptime, high reliability, and a laser lifespan of up to 100,000 hours.
Domino also showcased its BK652 black ink, which dries in less than half a second. The ink has been specially developed for use with Domino’s thermal ink jet (TIJ) G-Series range to print high-definition, machine-readable traceability codes without slowing down the speed of production lines. More importantly, the code is durable throughout the product lifespan from manufacture to distribution, storage, and dispensation.
Videojet’s new code-detection system checks for the presence of a printed code on products and packaging. The automated inspection system uses a combination of hardware and software to verify that the ink-jet printed codes contain sufficient contrast in the marking area. An alert is issued when a coding error is identified, such as a missing, mispositioned, or clipped code. Operators can set a threshold for a code to be considered unacceptable and a limit for the number of bad codes that can be detected before a fault is indicated. The system can be configured to take a variety of actions upon detecting a coding error. It can, for example, send an alert signal to eject the product or stop the packaging line. The bad code images are stored on the system, which means that operators will be able to quickly identify the root cause of the coding errors and implement measures to prevent recurrence.
Optel Vision’s Flying CartonTracker, on the other hand, is a stand-alone unit that handles the printing and verification of cartons to ensure accurate serialization identification. The system is easily adapted to any table or conveyor in an existing line and can handle a wide range of carton sizes with speeds up to 400 cartons per minute. It can be integrated just after a cartoner or at the end of the production line and can be fed automatically or manually by operators. Cartons are held from the top. The printing and inspection are performed in a continuous motion without stopping the item. A camera ensures that the printed information meets quality requirements. Faulty cartons are rejected on the fly. The addition of other inspections, such as dimensional measurement of the item, verification of pre-printed information, or barcode grading, is also possible.
Mettler-Toledo’s new launch, the XS2 MV TE, integrates four technologies-marking, vision verification, tamper-evident sealing, and checkweighing-into one fully enclosed unit with a small machine footprint. Its components include an ink-jet printing system, high-resolution verification cameras, mechanical transfer units, sorting devices, and an accurate weigh-cell technology. Product codes printed onto the packages are verified by the camera system for accuracy and legibility. The data are saved in an internal database. The weight of each product is checked to ensure completeness of the product. Products that do not hit the target weight, for example due to a missing information leaflet, will be removed. The new tamper-evident feature of the XS2 MV TE is supported by sensor verification and consists of a small sealing module. Wrongly marked or sealed, askew, or incomplete boxes are separated out into reject bins during sorting. The open software interface eases communication with various standard data protocols and network systems using simple upgrade procedures for track-and-trace requirements.
Track and trace
The Traceable Quality System (TQS) by OCS Checkweighers is a track-and-trace solution that combines serialization and aggregation of pharmaceutical products to enable a traceable product flow from the manufacturer, through the distribution chain, to the patient. The fully integrated single software product manages the operation of three functional units-product handling, coding, and camera inspection-across all levels of aggregation. TQS-SP (single pack) offers a user-friendly solution for the serialization of individual folded boxes. An integrated layout editor sends the print data to the printer and an image of the imprint to the camera. Each operation is fed into central software, which means that the same user interface provides access to all components of the system. A sophisticated, continuously variable and optimally synchronized top and bottom conveyor picks up the folded boxes from the cartoner upstream or from a manual in-feed system. The matrix codes may either be printed on the flaps or on the top of the boxes. The TQS-BP (bundle pack), designed for the first stage of aggregation, compiles the serial numbers of several individual packages and uses them to create a serial number unique to the bundle. It has a format-independent conveyor system that takes over bundles directly from the bundle-packaging machine.