The fast route to a safe insulin pen

Diabetes is on the rise worldwide with around ten million people developing the disease every year. Demand for insulin pens allowing patients to self-medicate is similarly high. Syntegon’s Danish subsidiary has developed an automated system to assemble the pens using the Festo automation platform.

"I have a dream," says Michael Andersen, sales manager at Syntegon Technology Sandved in Denmark. "I have a dream of flying format changes in our machines. That would be the culmination of our philosophy of flexibility and agility, which we put into practice in our company," adds the automation expert.

Flexibility and agility

"By using the Festo automation platform, which includes the servo press kit, we are already very close to achieving this dream," says Andersen. In fact, Festo's YJKP modular servo press system - a preconfigured modular system consisting of software, controller and standard electric drives - enables easy integration into the plant and offers a high degree of flexibility thanks to the preinstalled software. This means the modular press system with servo drive for electric pressing and joining up to 17 kN is ready for immediate use. Compared to similar solutions on the market, it can be parameterized intuitively and is cost-effective.

"We have installed more than a hundred servo press kits in the lines for automated assembly of insulin pens," says Ulrik Keldke, head of Syntegon's Engineering department in Sandved. The precisely adjustable pressing and joining forces ensure consistent quality and low reject rates. "What we particularly like about the Festo servo press kit is that it can be put into operation quickly and easily, and no training is required for machine operators," explains chief engineer Keldke.

Quality and safety

"Automation of the assembly line is a prerequisite to meet the requirements for the end product: the insulin pens must be safe and user-friendly for self-medication," says Andersen. Finally, the pens must not break when used by the patient and thus endanger the patient. The servo press kit keeps the tension and pressure constant. "For example, the glass of the syringes must never break due to irregular pressure," says Keldke. The automated systems ensure that the insulin pens are always in order and can deliver the exact amount of insulin to the patient.

Depending on the machine type, Syntegon's assembly machines produce up to 300 pens per minute. The degree of automation can be scaled to meet the requirements, and can also be adjusted at a later date. The machine concepts are based either on a rotary table for low to medium outputs or on a linear transport system for high outputs. The system can be expanded with automatic feeders and stations to increase output and the level of automation.

Resilience and reliability

Syntegon Technology, formerly Bosch Packaging Technology, sees itself as a provider of integrated solutions: The assembly line for insulin pens can be expanded into a complete line with other coordinated systems from the company. Pharmaceutical manufacturers can obtain the process functions filling, capping, assembly, testing, labeling, and packaging preconfigured from a single source.

The machine control system is based on electrical and pneumatic components and modules from Festo's automation platform, thus ensuring consistency on the supply side: Festo's products are available worldwide and offer open interfaces to higher-level control systems. The connection to the process control level is provided by the CPX-E-CEC module from Festo. This makes it open for Profinet or, for other customers in Europe, EtherCat. Especially for North American customers, however, the system could also be supplied with the Ethernet/IP module.

Standardization on the component side has other benefits that prove to be a competitive advantage for Syntegon: a faster time-to-market. "This trend is becoming increasingly apparent in the pharmaceutical industry," explains Michael Andersen of Syntegon. "Currently, we are able to deliver systems after six to nine months. However, our goal is to reduce this period to three to six months. With our approach focused on flexibility and agility, we are getting closer to this goal every day."

About Syntegon:

Syntegon Technology is a leading global supplier of process and packaging technology. Formerly the packaging division of the Bosch Group, the company, headquartered in Waiblingen, Germany, has been offering complete solutions for the pharmaceutical and food industries for more than 50 years. More than 6,100 employees at 30 sites in more than 15 countries generated total sales of 1.3 billion euros in 2019. The portfolio of intelligent and sustainable technologies includes individual machines as well as complete systems and services. Areas of application in the pharmaceutical industry are the production, processing, filling, inspection and packaging of liquid and solid drugs (e.g. syringes and capsules). In the food industry, the portfolio includes process technology for confectionery as well as packaging solutions for dry foods (e.g. bars, baked goods and coffee), frozen foods and dairy products.

January 2022