Package pharmaceutical additives fully automatically

Article of 31 July 2020  

Burgener AG

In addition to the active pharmaceutical ingredient, drugs always consist of one or more pharmaceutical additives. For transport, it is important to package the material quickly and hygienically. This is made possible by a fully automatic dosing and packaging line from Burgener AG with components from Festo. What is important here is the process, environmental and operator safety of the machine.

Pharmaceutical additives play a major role in the manufacture of drugs. The substances transport the actual active pharmaceutical ingredient, which often consists of only a few milligrams, and give the drugs their form. They also ensure, among other things, the taste, shelf life and release of the active ingredient of the drug.

In order to transport the powdered additives from A to B, they must be packaged in airtight boxes under hygienically safe conditions. The fully automatic dosing and packaging line of Burgener AG creates a fast throughput time of one to two units per minute by linking the individual dosing and packaging stations.

Transport in plastic bag and box

At the first station, the powdered pharmaceutical additive is first filled into boxes. So that it does not come into contact with them and thus is not contaminated, they are lined with a plastic bag – a similar principle to an inserted bin liner in a bin. For this purpose, a handling system takes a bag from a feed magazine, inflates it and puts the edges over the sides of the box. Pressure sensors from Festo provide the right amount of air.

The box then reaches the dosing station via conveyor technology. There, the desired amount of additive is dosed into the plastic bag via a funnel in a two-stage filling process.

The amount of air required to inflate the bags is measured with a pressure sensor from Festo. The pressure sensor is equipped with IO-Link – a secure connection for analogue, binary and serial communication devices.
The amount of air required to inflate the bags is measured with a pressure sensor from Festo. The pressure sensor is equipped with IO-Link – a secure connection for analogue, binary and serial communication devices.

At the next station, a suction lance extracts the residual air from the filled plastic bag, thus reducing its volume. Grippers and round cylinders made of stainless steel from Festo – which are designed in the easy-to-clean Clean Design – place and press the upper edges of the plastic bag precisely on top of each other so that it can be closed by means of impulse welding. After the welding process, a handling system feeds a lid to the boxes and closes them with the appropriate pressure. Now the additive is ready for transport and can be shipped to the drug manufacturer, where it is processed with the active pharmaceutical ingredient into the finished drug.

Better safe than sorry

With such a complex system, machine safety must not be disregarded. The individual system modules are equipped with service units which are fitted with the MS6-SV safety valve from Festo. They provide protection for humans and machines by venting safety-critical system components as quickly as possible in the event of a sudden emergency stop, switching them to a safe de-energised state. The safety valves also have an integrated pressure build-up function, which allows systems to be started up again in a controlled and safe manner, even from the state of being de-energised.

Safety first: with the safety valve Ms6-SV, safety-critical plant components are shut down as quickly as possible in the event of a sudden emergency stop.
Safety first: with the safety valve Ms6-SV, safety-critical plant components are shut down as quickly as possible in the event of a sudden emergency stop.