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Article | August 31, 1996
High-assurance capping, sealing & bottle counting
In addition to flexible changeover, Glaxo Wellcome's clinical trial packaging line makes a high priority of quality-assured packaging. Its capper, sealer and bottle packer/counter are designed to maximize accuracy while minimizing errors.
The hopper-fed Euro-Cap rotary capper from Kalish provides real-time torque inspection. A strain-gauge cell built into the capper measures the torque of each cap; if it's outside preset limits the bottle is rejected. Previously torque inspection was limited to manual tests of randomly sampled containers. Following cap inspection is an Enercon (Menomonee Falls WI) induction sealer. It has a unique speed control from Kalish that enables Glaxo Wellcome to validate that every bottle has passed through the sealer at the proper conveyor speed and hence is properly sealed. The control consists of a PLC tied to an encoder on the conveyor. If the conveyor is running too slowly for a proper seal the PLC delivers more current to the conveyor to speed it up. If the conveyor is moving too quickly the speed control slows it down. If for whatever reason the conveyor is physically unableto run at the speed that's specificed by the PLC an alarm sounds. After bottles pass through a retorquer they proceed into a unique custom built machine from AGR that counts bottles and drops them loose into polyethylene-lined cases. It's not so much a case packer as it is a highly accurate bottle counter that uses multiple light curtains to register and confirm the passage of each bottle. Air bursts are used to blow bottles off the conveyor and into the waiting box. The counter was necessary since Glaxo Wellcome needed a way to count out the exact number of bottles dictated by a given trial. "It's been a lifesaver" says Dean Kazan supervisor clinical supplies primary packaging. "We used to have a collection table at the end where we'd offload these by hand."
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