AA Robotics automates drug line inspection

AA Robotics is helping the pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim to speed up production and improve its quality control process by supplying six robotic vision inspection machines to assist in the manufacture of pharmaceutical products

AA Robotics' automatic solution involves inspecting boxes used to transport drug vials to make sure that the vials have been removed before the boxes are returned to the production process for refilling.

Boxes pass beneath a Cognex Insight camera mounted on the Z axis of an inverted Denso Scara robot arm. The robot moves the camera around the compartments of the box, checking that all the vials have been removed.

An inspection cycle takes 20 seconds, which is a significant improvement on the previous system rate. A major benefit of the inverted SCARA arm is that it is able to operate successfully in the tight confines of the existing production line.

Ethernet communication operates between the robots and cameras. Message protocol ensures that each message to release a box is unique and contains new data.

Every cycle of inspection is self-checked as the Cognex Insight camera records its position at the start and end of the cycle in order to verify that the images seen are correct.

The Denso robot positions each camera to a tolerance of 0.015mm and provides a stable camera platform which enables discernable vision images of the corners of the boxes to be repeatably produced - something not possible with the use of a fixed camera system.

Only one set of parameters and lights is required to enable the complete inspection process. When inspections are not taking place the camera is moved out of the area, thereby minimising the danger of disturbing the camera or its associated lighting.

Image: AA Robotics' solution is speeding up Boehringer Ingelheim's inspection cycles

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