Robotic Vial Filling for Increased Speed and Precision
Robotic vial and tube filling solutions can be difficult to automate. This customer was looking for a solution to increase sample handling time and decrease manual operations.
This customer was in immediate need for increased sample handling speed due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
The current operation was highly dependent on manual operations, along with these critical operations needing to be performed within a clean room environment due to the vials containing medical testing materials that could prove to be life or death for the persons being tested.
With Covid-19 spreading, far more throughput was needed to really make a difference in the fight.
Midwest Engineered Systems proposed a robotic system that could dependably handle the highly dexterous operations needed to automate the process.
The cell would be designed around a FANUC LR Mate robotic arm built specifically for clean-room operations.
The opening of the vials was to be performed with rotary motors, while both the robot and rotary motors working together would adequately approximate the hand motions workers were performing.
To fit into the existing process, the vials were presented to the machine in an already closed condition, as the vials would only be open for the time needed to add the testing liquid.
With the combined speed of the opening operation and the robotic arm, they allowed only 5 seconds between opening the vial and securing the cap afterward, so fast speeds were necessary to reduce the possibility of contamination.
Midwest chose a tray delivery system for the vials.
A tray could be loaded and unloaded from the robotic cell while the system worked its way through another tray. This interchangeable tray system offered near-continuous operation while allowing trays to be loaded off-cell. Both features helped extend the machine’s throughput.
The entire system was placed inside an ISO 5 rated enclosure to provide greater contamination resistance. The enclosure featured a positive airflow chamber in which the robotic filling system would perform its operations.
Impact to the Customer
The dual benefits of increased speed from the robotic operations and the vial-to-vial repeatability gave the customer the ability to rapidly scale up the vial testing process.
With the cells being completely automated, the customer only needs an operator to fill the machine from time to time. This allows for a single operator to oversee a number of machines, each of which is able to process 360 vials per hour – far more than can be done with several skilled workers.
On top of the machine’s production capabilities, Midwest Engineered Systems was able to go from concept to delivering a complete turnkey machine in six weeks. The speed at which MWES was able to complete the project helped the customer build out its throughput during the crisis when it had the most impact.
Lubricant testing facility for pharmaceutical & medical industry