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THE AMERICAN COUNTING MARKET OF TODAY AND THE FUTURE
News, Product news
THE COUNTING MARKET: THOSE WHO “COUNT”
If we could illustrate the worldwide market of pharmaceutical counting machines on a pie chart, we would see two large slices flavoured with different ingredients. One with Asian countries, (China at the top), where pharmacies still often sell their medicines loose. The other with the USA, where the demand for counting machines for bottles instead of blister machines is more popular. In America there are a wide variety of bottle types and cap types available depending upon the application and whether the product is OTC or RX.
AMERICAN COUNTING MARKET: “MECHANICAL” OR “ELECTRONIC”?
In the American market, there are mechanical counters and electronic counters. The first are mainly Slat Counters. Their main benefit is their production speed, with their main disadvantages being long change over times along with numerous and expensive change parts.
Ongoing requests for greater flexibility often turn the market demand to electronic counters. These machines can process basically any kind of product, even those with rather complex shapes. You can even find products shaped like a bone, for animal healthcare, or like a teddy bear for small children.
Electronic counting machines operate using a sequence of vibrating trays which separate the product. At the discharge of the trays, the product falls past a set of sensors (one set for each vibratory track). The sensors are set based on the products “dark” time which is the time the products blocks the sensors when falling through the counting head.
Once the target count is reached, gates sequentially stop the product from falling into the bottle (without stopping product infeed to the counting channels), and the machine releases the filled bottle, replacing it with the next empty one. At this stage, the gates open again and release the product that has accumulated, into the empty vial, completing the count.
WHY CHOOSE A MARCHESINI COUNTING MACHINE?
The strategy of the Marchesini Group is to focus on innovation and product quality. This means, especially for the American counting market, offering versatile and flexible machine options capable of different functions in small spaces and thereby maximizing production efficiency. Production efficiency is achieved by two important features.
1) Minimizing down times due to our machines’ quick and easy cleaning and changeovers.
2) Marchesini uses state of the art counting sensors and sophisticated control systems that can scan the colour, shape and dimensions of the product at all times. This insures the most accurate counting and maximizes efficiency.
Electra is Marchesini’s solution that fits between a mechanical and an electronic counting system. This machine is produced by the Tonazzi-Vasquali division of the Group and is the result of the Marchesini’s experience with blister machines and electronic counters as it combines the best features of both technologies. The final stage of the product feed process structure is derived directly from the “blister” technology, where the product is arranged in a series of columns, but horizontally, rather than vertically like on a blister machine.
These columns are released individually or in multiple groups based on the requested count. Before they are released, a camera checks their conformity (colour, shape and dimensions) and as soon as the columns are released, the same camera makes sure the relevant channels have been completely emptied.
The volumetric counting technology, backed by the “double-check” function of the camera, makes the counting system extremely accurate and repeatable. The Electra will handle just about any type of product. The balcony design insures a clear separation between the counting function and the electrical/mechanical areas.
The electronic segment of Marchesini solutions offers a variety of models, including the FTC 12; a flexible 12 lane vibratory counter suitable for low and medium production lines (50 bottles per minute), and the FTC 24, which is the double head version (24 lanes). The FTC 24 is an ideal solution for higher production rates (100 bottles per minute) but with the same flexibility and efficiency.
Marchesini offers multiple Monoblock counting and capping solutions. First is the Compact 12, which runs 50 bottles per minute. It has various configurations that can integrate cottoning or desiccant inserting in addition to counting and capping in one unit. The Compact 12 has a small footprint and can fitted with containment systems to protect operators or the laminar flow system to protect the product.
Our high speed Monoblock versions, include the Synchro 24 (for speeds of up to 150 bottles per minute) and Synchro 36 (for speeds of up to 200 bottles per minute). The Synchro family is one of Marchesini’s newest solutions for the counting sector. The Synchro Monoblock has been designed and built to manage high production speeds while minimising the critical aspects often caused during product transfer into the bottle.
We are able to achieve higher speeds on our Monoblocks due to the combined use of a "twin flap" technology that splits the 12 channels of each counting unit into two sectors, without increasing the quantity of contact parts, and a synchro-dynamic transport system that transfers the product into the bottles while the bottles are moving. The efficiency of the Synchro’s process starting from the upstream functions (desiccant, bottom bottle coding etc.), through counting, to insertion of the cotton and capping, is supported by a mechanical structure that guarantees easy cleaning and size change-over operations, as well as superior dust containment. The final outcome is a fast and reliable counting machine, equipped with the best possible detection and reject systems available for the Track&Trace operations.
Last but not least is the Valida. A one-of-a-kind version has been developed starting from the model introduced during Achema. This machine is equipped with two camera vision systems to double-check the process. First, a laser camera detects the thickness of the pill, then there are three cameras, from the top, checking the colour, shape and dimensions of the pills.
The count will only continue once the product has been “confirmed”. If a pill is not within specification, the machine is able to reject just this pill alone, without having to reject the whole bottle, which is what happens on normal counters.
Once the product has been confirmed a set of barrier sensors located in the channels where the product fall “double check” the count. The process is thus confirmed by two different systems. The Valida counter can be stand alone, can be supplied as a double unit like the FTC 24, and can be used in all our Monoblock configurations. It is an excellent solution for handling very expensive products as it minimizes product loss.