Optima Pharma Showcases Robotics at PACK EXPO
A new robot control developed by Optima Pharma specifically developed for handling pharmaceutical liquids provides new and flexible methods for pharmaceutical use. It underscores the highly developed competencies at Optima Pharma.
Robots break new ground in mechanical engineering. Different stations in a machine can be reached in a flexible way. Since the introduction of robots which can withstand H2O2 sterilization, from a hygienic standpoint, nothing stands in the way of other applications in sterile environments. Yet, it is the product, liquid or powder drugs, that set the technical hurdles for handling so high. The closer the distance between the liquid level and the bottle opening in uncapped bottles, the more difficult it becomes to prevent liquid from swashing out. This needs to be prevented at all cost.
The key to this is in robotic control of fast and secure transport of pharmaceutical liquids in vials and other containers. The goal is to maintain (as best as possible) the geometric volume between the liquid level and the bottle opening (head space), regardless of how the robot moves. Each liquid is unique in its’ dynamic motion in a vial, based on viscosity, surface tension and filling volume (mass). At Optima, we asked the question of how liquids can be mathematically calculated and how this mathematic model can be implemented in the control software.
Liquids as a mathematical model
A solution was found for the mathematic description of the dynamic behavior of liquid, as well as its’ translation into control systems and robotics. When the viscosity of a liquid changes, for example, only a parameter in the mathematical model needs to be changed. The question on how to move the robot to keep the head space constant involves complex mathematical transformations. A robot with six axes, and as many servo motors, requires the calculation of six dynamic joints and their angles. The robotic control system developed by Optima programmers controls a robot so that the operational speed is no longer limited by the physical parameter “liquid”. In this way, open vials can be transported at a high rate of speed, resulting in reduced cycle times.
Optima has good reason to put emphasis on robotic competencies. The same programming is not available from manufacturers of robotic components. The sequence of movement for the robot with six axes is a product which sets Optima apart. When specific motions or adjustments are required, Optima is there to support. The customers’ advantage spreads out beyond the project, as Optima is the direct contact, and excepting the mechanical portion of the robot, independent of suppliers.
Use of robotics in pharmaceutical applications has a great future. Of that, Optima is certain. A practical and closely related application within the Optima Pharma range of competencies deals with freeze dried liquids. The robotic control system allows vials to be transported without having liquid coat the inside walls of the head space. This liquid coating is known to produce an undesired thin haze of residue on the wall of the vial during freeze drying.
Several different robotic applications, mostly for pick-and-place, have also been used at Optima in the past. The available know-how expands the field of play for other applications, limited only by the physical range of motion.