Hygiene is of utmost priority in the pharmaceutical sector. The empty vials or small bottles are delivered in sterile, packaged bundles which are covered with a paper seal. Operating personnel place the packaged bundle into the system. Here, it is opened fully automatically under cleanroom conditions. The movements must be smooth and precise to ensure the prevention of any unnecessary build up of particles.
Saving time and increasing efficiency
The filling and sealing systems from Zellwag Pharmtech AG in Frauenfeld are in great demand across the globe in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industry. To ensure efficient engineering of the systems, the company turned to Siemens: An innovative application allows robots to be operated directly in the TIA Portal. Kinematics technology objects in the control system boost performance of the plants and facilitate development, commissioning, and operation.
The main actors are the S7-1500 technology CPU, or T-CPU for short: Technology objects for advanced motion control functionalities are incorporated in the control system to provide a clear view of the various motion sequences. These include the technology object kinematics (TO kinematics), which controls up to four interpolating axes for movement of a tool in the space.
As well as saving time for engineering, the technology objects also increase the efficiency of the system, as attested by Asraf: «The movements are fluent for removal of the paper seal. This ensures that there are no waiting times. The time saved amounts to around 15%.» Moreover, Zellwag was also able to boost performance in filling the vials. Currently, 2200 syringes are being filled every hour, 350 more than previously.
Simple integration of robots
The robots feature their own controller, through which the control program is generally run. Consequently, the robots must be programmed with a separate engineering tool and operated using an independent operator control device. Based on a TIA Portal library, the robots can now be programmed in the engineering tool from Siemens.
A «ready-to-use» solution relieved Zellwag more or less completely from programming requirements for their robots: The developers did not have to enter a single line of code in the engineering tool of the robot manufacturer or use the operator control device. Familiarity with the TIA Portal suffices for integration of a robot. Siemens has designed the application to be flexible: Should the customer wish to work with another robot manufacturer, he must simply replace the manufacturer-specific library.
«The application has already saved us 30% of programming time for the first bundle of bottles. Each subsequent package which we assign to the system is now being processed twice as fast as previously,» concludes Asraf.
User-friendly operation with the Siemens Mobile Panel
The system is operated via the HMI Touch Panel. A tremendous amount of engineering performance has been invested in this HMI: The target coordinates can be initiated, taught and combined into a motion path directly using the Siemens Mobile Panel. Asraf confirms: «We adopted the HMI from Siemens unchanged and I was amazed at how smoothly everything functioned from the very beginning.» Siemens would even like to take this a stage further in future, as explained by Tobias Fengel, Marketing Manager for Electronics & Robotics at Siemens: «We are developing a robot library specifically for the TIA Portal. This will allow an even easier integration of robots.»
Flexible systems are required
Zellwag is one of the forerunners in the small to medium-sized filling systems sector. The modular design is its primary strength: This allows the company to develop each product to suit the individual requirements of the customer. Additionally, modularity enables the customer to easily adapt the system accordingly. Zellwag is therefore well equipped for the trend toward personal medication-based therapies intended for individual patients. Patrik Thoma, the Managing Director, explains: «Producing small batches is becoming more commonplace nowadays, and this necessitates a high level of flexibility. Thanks to the modular design, we can convert our systems to a different dosage or to a completely new recipe in a matter of minutes.»