A market report recently published by PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, indicates that the use of robots in a number of industries has more than tripled in the past five years. By 2018, robots are projected to be used for 27 percent of new line installations for medical device primary packaging — compared to just 3 percent in 2013. For the pharmaceutical industry, robots are expected to service 34 percent of primary packaging efforts, a 13 percent increase from 2013.
As pharmaceutical companies strive to run leaner and more efficiently while always maintaining the highest product safety standards, advanced robotics solutions offer a competitive advantage. A new generation of these automated technologies is transforming pharmaceutical manufacturing with applications that increase efficiency, product safety and cost-savings — and speed time to market.
Selecting the Right System
A robot is an automated system that incorporates a sensor, an intelligent decision-making algorithm, an actuator and features at least four axes of motion. These axes provide flexibility for operations in pharmaceutical packaging environments, for example.
The robot's end effecter (the part that will come into contact with the product) and sterility requirements must be taken into consideration when selecting an automated system, and various types of robots are helping manufacturers streamline their operations. These include selective compliant assembly robot arm (SCARA) robots that can be used in applications requiring maximum precision and speed. Delta robots are also increasingly used for repetitive pick-and-place lab applications, including the relocation of fluids in R&D testing. Before implementing a robotic technology into a pharmaceutical line, manufacturers should identify what they stand to gain the most in efficiency, cost savings and compliance.
Not that long ago, robots were relegated to heavy-lifting applications in end-of-line palletizing operations. However, years of advancements have resulted in incredibly quick, accurate, intelligent and easy-to-operate robots for uses throughout the medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturing supply chains. The use of Delta robots in R&D testing is only one example. Also emerging are modular bench top filling systems suitable for clinical trials and small batches requiring flexibility, accuracy and fast changeover. Analytical equipment is another growing category. These technologies are designed to handle the expanding volume of highly potent and costly drugs, ensuring that solid dosage forms are 100 percent weight sorted to maximize product reclamation and cost savings.
Sourcing the Right Solutions
Pharma EXPO (Nov. 2-5; McCormick Place, Chicago) will feature a wide range of robotic technologies for pharmaceutical manufacturing applications. Co-produced by the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE) and PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, and co-located with PACK EXPO International 2014, Pharma EXPO will present a variety of processing and packaging solutions, as well as a world-class conference program for the pharmaceutical, medical device, nutraceutical and biotechnology industries. The two events are forecasted to offer 2,000 exhibitor solutions and attract 50,000 attendees – creating numerous opportunities for a cross-pollination of ideas between industries.