Reliable and consistent quality assurance is an important prerequisite for pharmaceutical manufacturers to ensure patient safety and avoid costly recalls. Recently, their requirements for solid-dose pharmaceuticals stipulate ever-stricter quality assurance in high production volumes, and have triggered the need for more sophisticated solutions. Fully automated optical systems are not only expected to inspect tablets for their correct size or eliminate broken ones. They must also identify tablet defects such as foreign particles, color variation, spots, printing errors, deformation and stains.
The ETIM from Bosch is designed to flexibly handle different types and shapes of tablets, to accurately detect all relevant defects, and identify foreign particles as small as 50 micrometers at rates of up to 300,000 tablets per hour with the present machine model, consisting of two inspection lanes. A machine with higher capacity is currently under development. Using advanced camera-based inspection technology, the ETIM delivers a 360 degree inspection of each tablet. A color camera and a proprietary optical system inspect the tablet surface and sides. Thanks to a flip-over mechanism, the bottom side is also checked, ensuring an all-around inspection. A black-and-white contrast-sensitive camera can be added for even more accurate inspection of physical features such as letter embossing integrity or very small cracks.
The inspection machines developed by Bosch only require four cameras per inspection lane to cover all inspection requirements. This results in less system complexity, more robust equipment, and ultimately in reduced set-up and maintenance efforts. Additionally, the inspection is done exclusively from above the tablet, thus avoiding dust particles on the optical components. The ETIM also incorporates our in-house developed FPGA-based digital circuitry, and advanced inspection algorithms for ultra-fast image processing with low false reject rates.
“Customer requirements regarding product quality are particularly high in Japan,” explains Kenji Hanawa, vice president of the pharmaceutical Inspection Technology sector of Bosch Packaging Technology. “We are now transferring our long-term expertise from Japan to all other markets.”
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