Pharmaceutical Company Detects, Aligns, and Inspects Product Labels with Machine Vision
Cognex Checker® always checks the label carefully for AstraZeneca
As a global player, AstraZeneca’s top production priority is to ensure the accuracy of label detection as well as the stability of the detection system. When AstraZeneca in China decided to turn to vision they realized they needed a supplier who could assure high standards with respect to the accuracy of product label detection while maintaining high production speeds. Cognex Checker® vision sensors proved to be the best choice.
As one of the leading pharmaceutical companies in the world with headquarters in London and R&D headquarters in Sweden, AstraZeneca has a business presence in over 100 countries, including 31 manufacturing sites in 20 countries. AstraZeneca China has its headquarters in Shanghai, with branch offices in 15 cities across the mainland China and one manufacturing plant in Wuxi city.
The challenge: achieve accurate label inspection and maintain high speed production
Product quality is a decisive factor in the increasingly competitive pharmaceutical industry, in which the content of the label is closely tied to consumer safety and can also influence consumer perceptions. AstraZeneca needed to improve the accuracy of label detection in order to maintain production quality. The problem arose from the assistant system counting product labels as traditional electric-photo sensors often encounter errors when checking the edge of two neighboring labels. These sensors are not competent enough to meet such high speed production requirements. In order to reach zero defect level in production, AstraZeneca needed a more accurate vision system to count label numbers, to check whether the edge of the neighboring labels on the production line are correctly aligned and to raise the alarm when an error occurred.
Checker advantage: goes further then a photoelectric sensor
AstraZeneca performed a series of tests on their production line using vision systems from Cognex as well as from several other vision suppliers. While they found that all the systems tested met basic production requirements, the Cognex Checker stood out as the intelligent sensor capable of going further.
What gives Checker a primary competitive advantage is an integrated LED illumination and lens. Other vision systems need an extra light source which can mean higher costs. Therefore, Checker was the obvious choice for AstraZeneca.
Checker: the smooth operator
Every production line in the plant is fully automated, running at a fast speed and is capable of self-adjustment according to labeling speed. In order to ensure the optimum performance of Checker on the production line, free run is chosen as the trigger and pattern sensors to check the edge of neighboring labels and detect the right place to label them. Checker has an integrated LED illumination and lens. As well as having a compact appearance, it is easy to configure and install. The output ports transfer two kinds of signal, 0 output as counting and 1 output as alert. Checker can analyze up to 500 images per second and is characterized by “train and go” capability communicating with a PLC that controls the equipment. The system uses a touch operation panel to display the number of labels. The operation staff can quickly and easily carry out job selection and inspection tasks just by touching the panel.
Cognex Checker is suitable for the high speed production system, so it easily meets AstraZeneca’s requirements. It checks whether the edge of neighboring labels is properly aligned during production, ensures the counting of labels and sounds an alarm to alert operational personnel in case of error. As a result production is carried out effectively and a zero defect level is ensured.
Result: problem solved and costs reduced
Thanks to the stability and accuracy of Checker, the quality of detection and counting is maintained and a high level of productivity is guaranteed. Costs are reduced while resolving a difficult problem. AstraZeneca is considering expanding the application to inspect date codes and inspect packaging.
As Cognex’s Checker distributor, Wuxi Tubang Electrics Co. LTD has been a successful partner of Cognex in Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces for several years, providing strong support in promoting Cognex products in the region.