Machine Design

Compact controls spot bad codes for pharma bottler

An automated system now replaces manual spot checks of 2D matrix codes on bottles coming off the line at a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant.

The enclosure for the system holds I/O and related components mounts such as Ethernet controllers, hubs, terminal blocks, and a utility outlet.

Visible on this verification system in an R&D lab are the Cognex Insight Vision sensors that verify 2D Matrix codes for quality and content.

The plant operator worked with ARKK Engineering Inc., a systems integrator in Oak Park, Mich., to set up the proofing system.

Plant inspectors formerly just verified a percentage of the total bottles processed with an ordinary handheld scanner. The new system checks 100% of the 2D Matrix codes for print quality and correct content, and boots bottles that don't pass from the line. ARKK worked the new system into existing bottling lines and set it up to communicate with a variety of code printers from different manufacturers to synchronize print information. Also, the bottling lines are in a clean-room/wash-down environment, which required careful attention to component selection.

The project needed an architecture that could "commonize" the verification process across various brands of printers and media. ARKK built its system around a Phoenix Contact panel PC loaded with Steeplechase VLC for the controls. This kept the footprint small because the controls and display could sit in the same unit.

The I/O and other components such as Ethernet controllers and hubs, power supplies, circuit breakers, terminal blocks and utility outlet also came from Phoenix. Their compactness let the console fit into a 24 x 24-in. enclosure that mounts to the same frame as the photoeyes, camera and reject tray. According to ARKK engineers, the components were flexible enough to handle changing customer requirements during the development effort without having to replace equipment.

Insight Vision sensors from Cognex Corp. verify the codes for quality and content. The Insight sensors can also expand into other error proofing, such as checking bottle caps and labeling, if need be. Two errorproof systems are currently in place and undergoing tests in R&D facilities which manufacture drugs for clinical trials.

ARKK Engineering Inc.,


Cognex Corp.,

(508) 650-3000,

Phoenix Contact,

(800) 888-7388,

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