Until recently, the use of robots on liquid filling lines for vials was considered non-viable. But Stäubli’s Stericlean range of robots has opened up new scope for plant design, as evidenced by the innovative solution of an Italian equipment manufacturer.
Steriline from Como in Italy has been supplying machinery for filling lines to the pharmaceutical industry for almost 30 years. They develop customer-specific solutions for aseptic processes. For their latest generation of machines, Steriline wanted to make systematic use of robots. The problem was that any such robots would not only have to comply with ISO 5 Class cleanroom standard but also have to work permanently in a VHP (vaporized hydrogen peroxide) environment.
For challenges of this nature, Stäubli has the perfect solution in its portfolio. Senior management at Steriline were aware of this and therefore took a close look at Stäubli’s comprehensive Stericlean range. It quickly became clear that these unique robots would open the way for the design and construction of a technically superior setup for filling vials.
The liquid filling line for vials is completely finished in stainless steel and complies with cGMP (Current Good Manufacturing Practice) guidelines. An ISO 5-compliant environment is ensured by HEPA-filtered unidirectional air. No fewer than three identical Stäubli TX60 stericlean robots are integrated into the new system, and they perform all the essential handling operations. The first robot picks the vials from the feed table and transfers them to the filling station. The second six-axis robotic arm then takes the filled vials and moves them along to the capping station, from where they are conveyed by the third TX60 stericlean to the final sealing station.
The most noticeable feature of the configuration is that the robots are wallmounted below the actual working level so as not to adversely affect the airflow. Despite the stringent environmental conditions, the machines work quickly, precisely and reliably. Of equal importance is that there is in trouble in withstanding the VHP disinfection Processe. The use of Stericlean robotic arms for the handling procedures is accompanied by a whole series of advantages. First, the robots bring additional flexibility into play, since their grippers can easily handle different types of vials. This makes retooling of the machines much faster and more straightforward. Secondly, the flexibility of these robots means that the filling machines now require considerably fewer format parts, which has positive implications for the cleaning and disinfection of the machines due to the reduced number of components. In addition, the use of Stericlean robots makes filling processes faster, more efficient and safer.