Bosch Automates Pharma Cartoning
The Packaging Technology Division of Bosch Inc. recently helped a major pharmaceutical manufacturer convert its semiautomatic packaging process into a more automated operation with its CUC horizontal cartoning machine. The manufacturer was interested in packaging its products in multiple iterations while enhancing employee ergonomics.
The drug maker was originally using a semiautomatic vertical cartoning machine. Operators would insert by hand bottles of liquid product along with applicators and printed materials into cartons. They have to juggle multiple packaging variations that include 10 package sizes, 4 types of applicator attachments, 3 types of literature, and between 1 and 4 bottles of product. Faced with these variations, the company found that it needed a faster, more-efficient system.
Bosch engineers integrated the CUC cartoner with automation equipment from outside manufacturing partners into one cohesive packaging line. An infeed buffer acts as a lane diverter for the bottles. Bottles circle around the buffer, maintaining continuous motion. “If the line encounters a jam or runs out of material at some point down line, the buffer prevents a system backup, eliminating the need for an entire system shutdown,” says Scott Johnsrud, product manager for Bosch Packaging Technology.
Four large hoppers contain each of the unique applicators and feed vibratory alignment bowls. These plastic attachments are staged in a custom-engineered selection module until directed by the system controller to release a part. The feeder transfer mechanisms—designed by Bosch—accommodate the dramatically different applicators shapes (dropper, sprayer, rub-on, nozzle) that have to be aligned, fed, and inserted. “Another challenge was placing the different applicators into any number of specified configurations,” says Larry Molenaar, project manager for Bosch.
A Bosch 2003 CUC horizontal cartoning machine designed for rear product loading was selected for its operating flexibility and reduced maintenance needs. “The convenient walk-in design allows the user to slide back the top of the cartoner for easy access,” Molenaar says.
The cartoner also includes three leaflet feeders for the many different pieces of literature. One of the feeders features a turret design for extended flexibility and future capacity.
To help the drug company ease operator control, Bosch installed an Allen Bradley Control Logix PLC that monitors all of the packaging stations, including time-synchronized functions. Because Bosch utilizes Pack ML standard operating protocols and Ethernet communications, an operator can easily oversee production by using the touch screen controls. “The end result is an efficient system that is much faster and capable of completing complicated functions simultaneously,” Molenaar said. In addition, operators can completely changeover the machine in approximately 30 minutes.
The complete unit surpasses the company’s original operating rates with the former semiautomatic packaging solution by up to 70%. Repetitive manual labor has been reduced. What previously required 14 to 16 operators can now be done faster and more efficiently.
Along with machinery, Bosch also offers its Pharmaceutical Turn-Over-Package, which includes process validation documentation for the equipment and production processes.