A View To A Pill

As inspection technology advances, systems are made easier to use.
The mantra of zeros defects has created a golden age for inspection solutions. For many requirements, 100% inspection is warranted although the potential for adversely impacting productivity must be weighted.
While many vendors are emphasizing ease-of-use and lower-cost solutions for more established applications, innovative technologies are raising the bar on what is possible.
For confirming blister tablet quality, Micron PharmaWorks, Inc. (Odessa, FL) is offering three-dimensional inspection with the Lynx-Spectra 3D image acquisition and inspection system. The 3-D imaging solution from scanware (Bickenbach, Germany) performs a volume calculation on the tablets, for a more robust inspection when compared with camera vision systems.
“Lynx Spectra 3D creates a topographical image of the product. The technology was first developed for the Japanese market for inspection of dents in formed cold form blisters,” says Peter Buczynsky, president, Micron PharmaWorks.
Lynx Spectra 3D creates a topographical image of the product to indentify faulty tablets and avoid failure reads on good products.
The 3D imaging captures imperfect blisters that would be missed by a standard vision solution performing an area calculation, and reduces or prevents failure reads on good products in various orientations.
When tabs are “capped” or sheared horizontally such as during processing by a dedicated feeder or brush box, “depending on the camera angle, the camera system won’t see it. If you are strictly looking at pixel counts, a capped product laying flat could be accepted,” Buczynsky says.
“The area, shape, and perimeter would be the same for a good and bad product,” he adds.
A camera system performing an area inspection might read whole tablets that are standing on edge as partial or broken products.
“A big challenge for vision inspection systems on blister thermoform lines is shearing. Another is when two tablets are in one cavity exactly on top of one another. The 3D imaging will detect the difference in volume in those instances,” he adds.
The system also performs more effectively in low contrast applications by better highlighting missing product and product deformations and fragments.
“Packagers would all like to have this. But they don’t ask for it because they don’t expect it,” Buczynsky says.
For in-line 100 percent print inspection of blisters, Micron PharmaWorks has launched the Blister Inspection Center. The “bolt-on” system is designed for easy installation to existing conveying systems.
“The advantage of a bolt-on, stand-alone system is that it remains independent from the up- and downstream packaging equipment. There is no programming or revalidation required of the host machine, which is a huge savings in cost,” Buczynsky says.
Deploying scanware Lynx-Signum OCV or Lynx-CODCON
code reader systems, the center performs individual inspection of HUD blisters at a rate of 350 cards per minute or higher. A reject failure barrier with reject verification supports immediate rejection of faulty blisters.
Containers may require a certain color or opacity to prevent contents from degradation due to light exposure. For verifying the color of translucent packaging, EMX Industries, Inc. (Cleveland, OH) offers its ColorMax VIEW sensor system, with a Windows-based application for programming the sensor and tracking results.
The sensor breaks white light projected through the object into red, green, and blue (RGB) spectrum components, and signals the values to an RGB receiver. Targets that fall within programmed color parameter tolerances pass as good.
ColorMax VIEW is versatile in that the capability is inherent to program to look for a match. Also, the sensor can throw raw data RGB values as a one-to-five volt analog signal to external systems with analog input capabilities, says Bill Letterle, senior engineer.
“With the analog output, the sensors readings can be used to drive manufacturing processes such as adjusting the colorant to keep the tolerances within range,” says Letterle.
“Using the Windows application removes the need to have multiple setting buttons on the sensor itself. (Plus) the screen provides a helpful visual display showing the relative amount of color components in bar chart form,” he adds.
Threshold levels that are set in reference to a good product sample are similarly programmed for pass/fail designation in the company’s OPAX 1000, which verifies the opacity of opaque containers. Targets are subject to an infra red light source, with a receiver measuring how much light makes it through the object.
The unit can also produce an analog signal for showing opacity on a one-to-five volt scale. This can be taken into a PLC for external analysis for controlling the manufacturing process, Letterle says.
Pass/fail and analog signal reporting is a feature of EMX Industries’ UVX 300 which deploys ultraviolet light for verifying the presence of luminescent materials. Targets such as tamper-evident seals (clear film with optical brighteners), luminescent coatings on labels, and medical fact leaflets with luminescent traces emit a glow when struck by the light source.
Banner Engineering Corp. (Minneapolis) has launched the iVu series Image Sensor. In the iVu, which Banner says will be the first in a series, a vision-based imager, controller, and programmable touch screen display are combined in one unit.
Operators use the integrated touch screen for configuring the sensor parameters and inspection monitoring, avoiding the need for programming and control through a PC.
“Many inspection applications do not require a full-blown PC-based system. The iVU provides most of the capabilities of traditional machine vision systems without the complexity. Operators can use the intuitive touch screen for on-board set up and maintenance with little or no training,” says Steve Wong, marketing manager.
For inspection tasks including labels, part presence and orientation, vial and cap inspection, and package and electronic marking verification, the sensor contains a pattern match tool and an area tool for blob analysis. The unit inspects blisters for package completeness, count, dosage size, and insert presence/absence.
For on-line presence/absence inspection of clear and translucent packaging, Banner has launched the World-Beam QS30ELVC Clear Object Sensor.
Units Target Non-destructive Leak Testing
The QS30ELVC operates in retro-reflective sensing mode where the emitter and receiver are contained in the same housing and the light signal is referenced off of a reflector.
After the operator performs a single point “clear teach,” the system learns the clear condition and detects small percent changes in the light signal when a clear object comes into view.
“Detecting clear objects is challenging with traditional photo-electric sensors. We can reliably detect very thin, clear objects as the systems picks up small changes in the optical signal using the advanced optics and algorithms we have developed,” says Wong.
The sensor features an automatic gain compensation circuit that adapts in real time to deviations caused by dust, debris on the sensor or reflector that might otherwise affect the readings.
Both the iVu Image Sensor and the QS30ELVC can be remotely taught by pulsing a wire tied to PLC.
B. Braun (Bethlehem, PA) is using smart cameras and the Impact suite of inspection tools from PPT Vision, Inc. (Bloomington, MN) for inspection and track and trace on medical device packaging lines at its facility in Penang, Malaysia.
Cameras on a needle production line are inspecting physical properties for more than 60 different needle types, for length, diameter, and twist and bevel angle. For tracking and inspecting labeling on ampules of liquid medication, cameras running OCR ensure that labels match product numbers and day and lot codes marked on the ampules. B. Braun had previously been manually checking the ampule codes before labeling.
PPT Vision has launched an 8.3 release of Impact that enhances the OCR performance, and enables a more intuitive set up, says Jeff Schmitz, marketing manager.
“Vision Program manager (VPM), included in the Impact software suite for our smart cameras facilitates icon-based, drag-and-drop inspection configuration and requires no knowledge of programming language scripts.
We are on a mission to continually make our smart cameras easier to set up and use. This latest release walks you through the parameter configurations with set-ups for each tool,” Schmitz says.
A more robust OCR function with enhanced pattern recognition algorithms addresses difficult factory conditions, provides reliable reading of dot-matrix printing, and handles challenging applications such as IV bag printing.
The release includes new support for the Microsoft ActiveX protocol, for seamlessly embedding results and images in machine control and SCADA systems.
PPT Vision smart cameras contain their own processors and real time operating systems, enabling them to run in a “headless” mode after tasks are configured from a PC. B. Braun deploys four cameras at four inspection stations with dedicated PCs, where results are reported and managed using PPT’s Control Panel Manager.
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