The way forward? Collaborate with robots

30 Oct 2019

Vetter increasingly relies on close interaction of humans and machines for greater flexibility.

Vetter's core competencies include the manufacturing of safe, user-friendly, complex packaging systems such as the assembly of pens, autoinjectors and safety devices. Thanks to the many years of experience and expert knowledge of its employees, the CDMO is able to meet the various requirements demanded of a drug product by regulatory authorities, customers and patients alike. To ensure customers' high-quality standards, while at the same time offering a high degree of flexibility, in the future the pharmaceutical service provider will increasingly focus on collaborative work. Following a successful pilot project, which included the use of a dual-arm robot in secondary packaging, the company is now planning the purchase of additional robots.

The way forward? Collaborate with robots
Collaborative work in secondary packaging. Picture source: Vetter Pharma International GmbH.

While large industrial robots work in restricted areas where humans are not permitted to enter during operation, collaborative robots provide close cooperation between humans and machines. In fact, at this year's Hanover Trade Fair, collaborative work was featured as one of the central topics. At Vetter, the collaborative dual-arm robot YuMi (You and Me) has been supporting automated secondary packaging processes since 2018. By inserting finished drug products and components into folding boxes, it performs an important task with a high degree of continuity and precision. Employees supply its work station with the required material and define its specific sequence of moves.

The acquisition of collaborative robots enables Vetter to meet the increasing demand for greater flexibility of its customers worldwide, and is playing an ever-greater role due to the growing diversity in packaging solutions and the trend towards smaller batches. "Fully automated systems allow fast throughput times and high quantities, but they lack flexibility due to long set-up times. This is exactly where our collaborative robot YuMi can make full use of its strengths," says Bernd Stauss, Senior Vice President Production and Engineering. Its high level of flexibility is based on a simple operating concept and excellent user-friendliness. These two qualities enable a wide range of deployment options and fast adaptation to changing product and packaging requirements.

With the first collaborative robot now having been successfully deployed in a pilot project lasting more than a year, the company will be acquiring two more models. The first model will be used to assemble a prefilled syringe barrel with plunger rod and finger flange. After its successful implementation in secondary packaging, the second model will be used for what is known as speed-bin-picking in aseptic production where prefilled syringes are placed into trays after terminal sterilization.

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