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Digitalisation is changing the future of Pharma


Pooja Patil, Corporate Communication, B&R Industrial Automation, talks about B&R’s versatile industrial transport systems, SuperTrak and ACOPOStrak for the pharma industry, which can achieve the increased market demand effectively and efficiently

Pooja Patil

Digital revolution is bringing remarkable changes in all business models. Pharmaceutical manufacturing companies are no exception to this. They have started adopting advanced automation technologies in their manufacturing plants to achieve optimisation and improve efficiency of their machines and factories. Manufacturers need to take full advantage of these technologies to compete effectively in the ever-changing global marketplace.

In the era of digitalisation, IT and automation are converging with data management, connectivity, supply chain, finance, sales, inventory and much more at the core. Thus, today, automation is not only limited to industrial manufacturing and shop floors, but its expanding to higher levels, IT, suppliers and laboratories too. Growth of the pharma  market is leading to new products as well as the need for factories to handle increased volume. To minimise workload and maintain high levels of accuracy, automation has become a significant part of pharma manufacturing. It increases efficiency, avoids human error and contamination. In addition, with the use of robots, the pharma industry is ramping up. Pharma packaging machine builders are adopting off the shelf and customised robots, subsequently pushing other suppliers to embrace robotic solutions.

Transport technology to achieve efficiency

The growing market demand is continuously driving a proliferation of new products and hence new packaging formats tailored to complex preferences from retailers, distributors and consumers. Current machine designs are unable to fulfil these demands and in order to fulfill this demand- supply ratio, pharma machine builders are turning to efficient industrial transport technology over conventional transport and conveyor systems. This technology helps in product transport as well as is able to handle delicate products efficiently. This technology is appropriate for the pharma sector, where profitability is heavily influenced by the performance of the production lines.

B&R makes it easy to synchronise robots and conveyor belts

B&R’s versatile industrial transport systems, SuperTrak and ACOPOStrak are the answer to market demands to achieve the increased demand effectively and efficiently. Based on long-stator linear motors, B&R’s next – generation industrial transport systems are constructed with IP65 dust and water protection and smooth surfaces that are easy to clean. The hygienic design certifies operation in food grade environment. The industrial-grade design ensures high availability and reliability with 24/7 operation. Dependable, precise and remarkably low maintenance –ACOPOStrak melds seamlessly with robotics and CNC systems to create integrated production lines. The flexible tracks used in the system make production more efficient, simultaneously improving product quality. This helps in making the production and packaging lines economical and effective at any volume from mass production down to batch size one. By eliminating the need for buffer zones, they allow for a substantial reduction in track length compared to conventional belt conveyors. They also make much more efficient use of the remaining space by utilising curve sections and incorporating reverse movements. Products can be transported flexibly and independently and then grouped together at a station to be processed as a batch. Overall, the production process can be accelerated by up to 50 per cent for a significant boost in productivity. B&R’s smart-factory motion control used in the transport technology helps to achieve key advantages as maximum availability, high-speed transport and positioning, rapid changeover and fault-tolerant high quality. ACOPOStrak boosts the overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), multiplies return on investment (ROI) and accelerates the time to market (TTM).

Build it with digital twin

Digital twin allow companies to have a complete digital footprint of their machines from design and development to the end of product life cycle. B&R helps machine builders to virtually develop their machines without the need of actual mechanics and electronics. Virtualisation allows descriptive models to be constructed in order to simulate the behaviour of the motion control system or control loops even without the electronics or mechanics. This allows future design challenges, complexities and errors if any to be identified early. A Digital Twin can have several benefits including the ability to run in-line with the real machine to enable rapid task-planning, early detection of potential problems and cost reduction during development and product machining.

Digital twin of a machine with ACOPOStrak is a virtual copy of the machine, which can be simulated for observing the behaviour of the system without actually building it. Digital twins allows to perform software-in-the-loop testing to validate and optimise the work early on – without the risk and expense of real hardware. Digital twins ensure superior machine design, streamlined commissioning and smooth operation – while substantially reducing the time it takes to engineer new machinery or implement new products on existing machines. With B&R, such virtualised concepts via MapleSim, Mathworks or industrialPhysics can be easily converted to a source code at the single click of a button for deployment in a controller.

In this way, by integrating a Digital Twin of the machine design on a real-time platform, the virtual machine can be configured and tested even before the real machine is built, accelerating the commissioning process, reduce risks and decrease costs.

Seamless integration of robots

Keeping in mind, the rigorous operational demands, pharma factory operators are demanding more flexible packaging machines. Machine builders and automation vendors are responding with systems that promise less complexity, less engineering and programming time with less expense and higher productivity. Today, pharma packaging machine builders are actively deploying robots, increasing productivity, ensuring safe operations and reducing machine footprint. This eventually gives rise to a lean manufacturing line with increased efficiency and safety.

3D simulation shows the behaviour of all shuttles in combination with synchronised subsystems like robotics and CNC

B&R technology removes the boundaries between machines and robots. B&R offers the most advanced form of integration with robots incorporated seamlessly into the machine control logic. Whether it’s a press brake, packaging line or injection molding system, the machinery and robots utilise the same processor, memory and timing. Ethernet POWERLINK helps in synchronisation of robot and machine with a cycle time of 100µs and a low jitter. The common DC bus enables maximum energy efficiency.

openROBOTICS has opened up new dimensions of robotics integration for machinery and production lines. With completely uniform programming for every component in the line — including robotics — B&R customers around the world gain full benefit of holistic approaches to operation, diagnostics and maintenance. openROBOTICS, provides an option for total integration with a possibility of a single controller from B&R for robot as well as machine control and programming. These systems run on open source, vendor independent, high-speed, real-time network Ethernet POWERLINK coupled with a fieldbus independent, open source, TÜV certified safety openSAFETY.

B&R has already a successful implementation for a human robot collaboration application where the robot is not bounded by cage and works together with humans satisfying entire safety requirement.

A step towards digital manufacturing with B&R

The pharma industry understands the value and the potential of digital transformation, which has opened the door for significant step change improvements. The companies who seize this initiative can give themselves a sustainable competitive advantage; operate with greater agility, cost-efficiency, and control; and ultimately provide better care for patients. B&R is a global automation provider with groundbreaking motion control, machine operation and control solutions for pharma processes. From blister packaging to fillers and cappers, from cartoning to case packers or palletisers and robotics with integrated vision inspection systems, remote diagnostics and maintenance, secure and real time connectivity, LLM technology and much more – B&R provides the best automation solutions for pharma machines and plants.

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