Vision Systems Help Overcome Pharmaceutical Packaging Challenges

A pharmaceutical packaging vision system is crucial to quality control in modern medicine. Packaging systems in the pharmaceutical sector inspect, sort, and count capsules and tablets. Errors can cause serious issues, the most serious of which is cross-contamination: The accidental inclusion of medication intended for a different batch. Cross-contamination has implications that can cause immediate shutdown of a facility and hefty fines.Pharmaceutical Packaging

A pharmaceutical packaging vision system must:

  • Verify all capsules are the appropriate length.
  • Measure length, width, area, and continuity.
  • Verify the appropriate exterior coloration.

Looking Closer at a Pharmaceutical Packaging Vision System

As tablets or capsules feed from a hopper onto a cascade of grooved, vibrating trays, they are separated and guided along lanes. When they reach the feed tray’s end, they are measured in free-fall by infrared optical sensors.

Accurate counts must be achieved at high speeds as products are shunted into bottles indexed on a conveyer belt. Since tablets are in motion for most of the process, systems must recognize them from any orientation.

Cutting-edge systems benefit from cameras placed above the final trays that verify integrity prior to counting and bottling. Cameras must interpret surface reflections from stainless steel trays to avoid miscounting.

Once an inspection returns a tablet as “good,” the result is locked in if edges and angles make it appear “bad” to subsequent inspections. Throughput-per-bottle is maximized by vibratory feeders calibrated for several start/stop cycles per minute.

The vision system is challenged to find each tablet in each image, predict where it will be in the next image, and match position and orientation so it is correctly identified. If a tablet is never deemed “good” in any image, the bottle receiving it is automatically segregated.

Camera manufacturers are responding to pharmaceutical packaging challenges with powerful cameras featuring miniature profiles, enhanced functionality and lower price tags. JAI cameras offer the GO camera series and the Spark camera series to meet these complex challenges. With the GO series offering resolutions up to five megapixels and maximum shutter speeds up to 107 FPS, and the Spark series boasting top-notch resolutions up to twenty megapixels and shutter speeds of up to 209 fps, JAI is delivering cameras perfectly suited for such sensitive inspection environments as pharmaceutical packaging.

Continued advances in imaging technology have opened the doors wide for camera manufacturers to develop high quality, cost effective camera solutions ideal for the specific challenges presented in automated pharmaceutical packaging processes. Keep an eye out for new cameras that will continue to raise the bar for quality control.