Hard-Working Packaging Professionals in Pharmaceutical Production
In a very short space of time, the Dresden-based robotics specialist Wandelbots, together with other partners, was able to implement a complete solution for end-to-end process automation and a cobotics solution for the small-batch production of radiopharmaceutical products for ROTOP Pharmaka.
Together with the automation specialist ICS from Tübingen and a manufacturer of labelling machines, Wandelbots implemented a complete solution for end-to-end process automation and a cobotics solution for the small-batch production of radiopharmaceutical products for ROTOP Pharmaka. The robotics solution fits seamlessly into the overall process, relieves the ROTOP production team, improves efficiency and prevents errors. All processes are digitally documented and every step is fully traceable, which simplifies error analysis. ROTOP has also been able to significantly improve quality control. The company, which produces and sells radiopharmaceutical products for diagnostics and therapy, has invested around nine million euros in this project.
At ROTOP in Dresden, the cobotics solution is used in the packaging room: This is where the radiopharmaceutical drug arrives in a glass ampoule in a lead container. The robotic arm grips the container and passes the barcode on the bottom of the container over a scanner. The labeling system then prints out a label, which is stuck onto the lead container. This label bears a new barcode, which is read by a second scanner. The code is sent to ROTOP's in-house software. This then reports back to the robot which customer order it is processing and how many lead containers the delivery comprises in total.
The robot is "trained" using Wandelbots technology: the operator uses the TracePen to demonstrate the correct sequence of movements to the robot. All the parameters for the functions (gripper open and closed, robot speed, etc.) are then set via the Wandelbots app. The task is difficult for the robot because the custom-made customer packaging is not always in the same place. Wandelbots uses a 2D camera and markings on the packaging to ensure precise sorting of the lead containers. Software then enables the position data to be read out and the robot movement to be automatically adjusted. To ensure that the packaging process runs smoothly, Wandelbots has also considered potential sources of error in advance: the robot stops if there is no barcode on the bottom of the container, if a label is printed incorrectly or if the labeling system is empty. In these cases, the robot arm moves back to its starting position and reports the error.
The result is impressive: "To be honest, I don't want to think about what it would be like if the robot wasn't there," says Jens Junker, Managing Director of ROTOP Pharmaka GmbH. "I am delighted with how easy the work has become for our colleagues in production." Since the start of production in November 2020, the production system and packaging robotics have been running stably in routine operation.