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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
AA Robotics checks boxes for Boehringer
Article Type: Mini features From: Industrial Robot: An International Journal, Volume 35, Issue 4
AA Robotics is helping one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies, Boehringer Ingelheim, to speed up production and improve its quality-control process by supplying six robotic vision inspection machines to assist in the manufacture of pharmaceutical products.
Boehringer Ingelheim, which can trace is origins to 1885 when Albert Boehringer commenced making tartaric acid salts in Ingelheim, Germany, now employs the latest technology in the manufacture of pharmaceutical and healthcare products.
The process, for which AA Robotics has provided an automatic solution, involves the inspection of compartments in packaging boxes. The boxes are used to transport vials containing liquid drugs between production and packing. Once the vials have been removed from the compartments, the boxes are returned to the production process for refilling. Ensuring that the box compartments are empty requires a visual check. This visual check is now conducted by an automated robotic process on each of the six production lines.
Boxes pass beneath a Cognex Insight camera mounted on the Z-axis of an inverted Denso Scara robot arm (Figure 1). The robot moves the camera around the compartments of the box, checking that all the vials have been removed. An inspection cycle takes 20 s, which is a significant improvement on the previous system rate. A major benefit of the inverted SCARA arm is that it is able to operate successfully in the tight confines of the existing production line.
Figure 1 Boxes pass beneath a Cognex Insight camera mounted on the Z-axis of an inverted Denso Scara robot arm
Ethernet communication operates between the robots and cameras. Boxes are only released for the following process when they are authorised to do so by the system. Message protocol ensures that each message to release a box is unique and contains new data. Every cycle of inspection is self-checked as the Cognex Insight camera records its position at the start and end of the cycle in order to verify that the images seen are correct.
The Denso robot positions each camera to a tolerance of 0.015 mm and provides a stable camera platform which enables discernable vision images of the corners of the boxes to be repeatably produced – something not possible with the use of a fixed camera system. Only one set of parameters and lights is required to enable the complete inspection process. When inspections are not taking place, the camera is moved out of the area, thereby minimising the danger of disturbing the camera or its associated lighting.