Packaging Line for inhalers in flowpack
An American pharmaceuticals multinational has just taken delivery of a large Marchesini line able to pack inhalers in flowpacks at the speed of 200 cartons a minute.
Construction of the line - comprising 9 stand-alone machines and the same number of Pick & Place robots - took a year and a half. Its component machines embody some of the most ground-breaking technologies of Marchesini Group and its strategic partners. In an area of 380 square metres, the line includes: a Tonazzi-Vasquali rotary table to feed the inhalers and a batch counter, supplied by a Vibrotech unscrambler; a LACTEST-4 machine to test operation of inhaler spouts; two Neri BL-H235 labelling machines to apply labels to the inhaler and actuator; a special machine to assemble the product prior to its secondary packaging; a machine supplied by partner Cavanna which inserts the assembled product in flowpacks; and downstream, an end-of-line comprising an MA 300 continuous-motion cartoning machine – which also places the booklet in the carton – a print-only BL A309 labelling machine and, to conclude, a Bestpocket for casepacking and Track & Trace.
Here, in six points, are the key characteristics that make this line so extraordinary:
- its speed: 200 cartons a minute mean this line is fully fit for production locations that demand high performances;
- its ability to handle a wide range of sizes: in particular, it can handle the inhaler bare or in flowpacks. The production process’s complexity varies depending on the format used. What’s more, the line can also handle widely different products, with inhalers (of different shapes, diameters and heights), actuators, labels and cartons all varying within the min/max limits permitted for each machine;
- the line is equipped with a large number of software packages supplied by partner SEA Vision for total control of the process. In particular, control functions cover the datamatrix codes and printing on the actuator, inhaler and booklet. There is additional monitoring of actuator colour: different colour caps identify different active ingredients;
- the on-board installation of yudoo, also supplied by SEA Vision, is extremely important. Yudoo is a software suite designed for the pharmaceutical industry created to revolutionise the concept of line management by incorporating additional industry 4.0 applications. In this case, yudoo does not collect data but instead provides a Line Management System (LMS) enabling production batches to be run from any smartphone/PC;
- inclusion of a special machine for assembly of the inhaler with the actuator: this solution combines industrial craftsmanship with leading-edge robotics, in the best Marchesini Group tradition. The combination of these two plus factors is even clearer in this machine given the highly specific nature of the actuator, produced by methods not ideal for automatic assembly. On the customer’s request, we designed an assembly robot routine that allows three attempts to insert the inhaler in the actuator; at the first successful attempt, the cycle is interrupted and the robot places the “passed” product on the belt. With this procedure, during a test run of about 30’ the assembly failure rate was zero for one format (bare inhaler) and 0.1% for the other format (inhaler in flowpack). Speed was maintained through a customisation and a change to the rejection logic, which enabled us to recoup the time needed for the three attempts as above;
- installation of on-board robots. This line includes nine robots, six Robocombi and three Robovision. The Robocombi use Pick & Place technology to handle products along the production flow with ease. Their main strengths are: 1) modularity: they can be installed on board sliding or rotary units; 2) pick-up heads with different axes of rotation according to the product to be handled; 3) the wide working area and high loading capacity. The Robovision robots implement a different, more complex technology: unlike the Robocombi, which pick from a fixed point, the RBV pick products arriving loose on a belt. The product’s position on the belt is provided by a camera installed upstream of the bank of three robots.
A fusion with Artificial Intelligence algorithms, of the type already available for its machines, will shortly be issued for all Marchesini’s robots. The result will be amazing. STAY TUNED.
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