Steadying the pharma industry

Whether its medicines that cure diseases or testing and analysis that innovates modern treatment, the pharmaceutical industry saves lives. To ensure that medication has the desired effect, the systems that develop and produce pharmaceuticals must be precise and reliable.

Here Stewart Goulding, managing director at precision drive system supplier Electro Mechanical Systems Ltd explains the need for precise motors in pharmaceutical production.

The pharmaceutical industry has had a hard time updating production processes. Rigid Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), which are in place to protect consumers, also somewhat inhibit the flexibility of pharmaceutical producers to instil cutting edge technology in their manufacturing systems.

Any new process or equipment must be properly registered and be thoroughly vetted to ensure that they are safe before being introduced into production. This is to ensure that they do not contaminate or alter the properties of the end products, which make sure that the final manufactured goods still has the desired medical effects. As a result, altering pharmaceutical production is hard.

However, identifying ways to create even marginal gains in existing systems can provide significant savings further down the line. For example, one area of pharmaceutical manufacturing that is often overlooked is dispensing and packaging medication. One method that is proving increasingly popular for dispensing and packaging systems is introducing high-quality DC motors into new or existing applications.

The use of brushless DC servomotors is growing in pharmaceutical and medical industries, particularly for pharmaceutical dosage. Distribution and dosage applications deal with various types of packaging, such as loose filling of pills into larger storage boxes or ready-packed larger units in boxes, jars or tubes.

Reliability is essential for pharmacists that must cope with processing large quantities of medication requests at hospitals, and online pharmacists that work round the clock. Some pharmacies must accurately process medication that is dosed into over 200 different varieties of supply boxes.

For example, there is a current trend of transferring dispensing duties to individual pharmacists. One way to ensure an efficient transition is using an automated dispenser system, designed according to the dimensions of conventional shelf systems used to date by pharmacists.

In the case of high-throughput pharmaceutical processing, the typical method of choice is to have the supply containers filled automatically. However, each function in the process places different demands on the drive used. At the same time, a versatile drive solution is considered less favourable with regard to logistics, technical maintenance and size.

This means that there are strict restrictions regarding the size of the mechanical components incorporated. To solve this issue, precise actuations are fundamental for a variety of reasons. Due to their precision FAULHABER motors are used in a wide variety of dispensing applications.

One pharmaceutical application saw FAULHABER 24 mm diameter brushless motors with adapted controller, in combination with compact planetary gearhead that can transmit class leading torque installed. Position indicators and encoders were also integrated into the drive allowing precise alignment of all components.

This allowed the development of a seamless automated application for dispensing pharmacists. The motors made the difference with this application because different elements, such as a threaded rod for the transport of pillboxes, or the pick-and-place function for the crane jib boxes, can use the same motors. Only the gears and encoders vary, and this translated into a more efficient design and logistical process and reduced costs.

Modern micromotors are the perfect fit for developments with challenging requirements, such as precise positioning and reliable operations over many years, that also require a compact design. Even the most demanding specifications applicable within the field of medical technology can often be met by means of standard drives or drives with minor modifications.

Pharmaceuticals save lives and to ensure they do they have stringent regulation covering their production. However, there are still methods that can be used to streamline production and ensure that proper treatment is carried out.