System Inspects Blister Packs Reliably and Economically
System offers quality inspection at a fraction of the cost of others.
Ken Richardson, plant engineer for Packaging Coordinators Inc. (PCI; Philadelphia), faces a challenge with each new project. His job is to find a quick and economical way to make more than 3000 pieces of production equipment that are spread over 59 production rooms meet the packaging needs of major pharmaceutical companies.
To meet such needs, Richardson relies on equipment that can be set up quickly, be programmed easily, and function reliably. Many of his clients demand quality contract packaging at minimal cost. And with several blister packaging operations lines already equipped with high-cost 3-D color inspection systems, Richardson needed a lower-cost system that could perform just as reliably.
Once the blister packs are filled, they pass through 100% machine vision inspection to detect the presence or absence of tablets in each blister or the presence of chipped or broken tablets. Photo courtesy of Acuity Imaging and Packaging Coordinators
In addition to performing quality and process inspections, the system had to be easily programmed on-site with minimal supplier support and also allow for quick changeover between product runs. "We've been known to have a new production line operational in as little as three weeks," Richardson says.
BUILDING A PRODUCTION LINE
Richardson turned to Acuity Imaging (Nashua, NH), a manufacturer of vision inspection systems commonly used in pharmaceutical packaging. Working with Acuity's local distributor, Saddle Brook Controls (Saddle Brook, NJ), Richardson incorporated the IVS Express gray-scale inspection system into four production lines. To block out the disruptive effects of ambient lighting and achieve accurate image processing, PCI's in-house engineering staff placed the IVS into an enclosed cabinet on the production line. The system inspects for the presence and absence of tablets in blister pack cells and detects chipped or broken tablets. When defective packages are identified, the system signals the controller to remove them.
In-house engineers quickly found the system easy to program and its functions easy to change. "The ability to save various setups in memory for later recall allows extremely fast, multiple changeovers," explains Richardson. "In most cases, the mechanics who operate the lines can set up the system for the next product run right at the machine."
To help PCI engineers program the systems, Acuity invited Richardson and three of his staff to a one-week intensive training seminar at Acuity's headquarters. "Being trained to program the system yourself not only saves a great deal of time and expense, but also gives us the confidence and flexibility to approach special jobs we've never run before and make them work," Richardson says.
The IVS meets the needs of PCI's customers who request lower-cost packaging without sacrificing quality. "Why use more capability than necessary to do the job?" Richardson asks. "It just drives up costs for our customers without providing any additional benefits." According to Richardson, PCI has been able to install three Acuity systems for the price of one color system.
In addition to the four IVS systems used to inspect blister packaging, PCI is using three others for label optical character verification of date and lot codes on bottling production lines and another for inspecting vial labels for date, lot, and product codes.