DIR Technologies, Haifa, Israel, has announced that Pfizer Global Supply will perform a three-month trial of the company's packaging integrity testing systems based on thermal imaging. DIR technologies will install a 100 percent inspection system for exploration of the technology, to potentially replace destructive seal integrity testing across a number of packaging operations to evaluate speed, accuracy, and cost.
Previous “Proof of Concept” work in Pfizer facilities has demonstrated the capability of thermal imaging systems to potentially enhance the inspection of a number of different packaging operations, particularly sealing and capping of bottles and some sterile pouch sealing operations.
Steve Hammond, sr. director of the process analytical sciences group at Pfizer, explains the company's interest in this new technology: “Pfizer Global Supply has a long history of deploying new technologies, as part of continuous improvement of manufacturing effectiveness programs in support of overall quality. The deployment of thermal imaging technology has the potential to inspect 100% of some packages at normal machine throughput, enabling detection of almost all defects and ensuring the patient only receives a well-protected product, while also facilitating the optimization of these operations. The technology to measure many of the key parameters of many package sealing processes has not previously existed.”
Inspection of aluminum foil seals
The I2VS (Induction Integrity Verification System) is testing in-line the integrity of the aluminum foil sealing of induction-sealed bottles. It is the first system capable of inspecting 100 percent of the bottles undergoing induction sealing, without resulting in production slowdown and providing continuous process verification. The inspection is done through the cap by means of high sensitivity Thermal Imaging. The system was recently launched by DIR Technologies at PACK EXPO (www.packexpo.com) in Las Vegas in September 2013, and was well received by the packaging community.
Roni Mansur, CEO of DIR Technologies describes the company's vision: "There are many production inspections in the pharmaceutical industry that are done by sampling just because there is no technological alternative. Our goal is to replace these tests with in-line, real time continuous process monitoring and verification and, in doing so, establish new quality control standards in pharmaceutical manufacturing. We are starting now with solutions for pharmaceutical packaging processes, such as the I2VS sealing integrity inspection, as well as a system that inspects in-line the fill level of sachets. The next step will be to incorporate our solutions into the monitoring of additional pharmaceutical processes, such as cake drying or detection of foreign particles in powders."
The principle of operation of thermal imaging is to capture the natural thermal radiation emission of all objects with an Infra-red sensor and to convert the signals into a 2-D image. The passive nature of Thermal Imaging makes it ideal for the inspection of pharmaceutical processes, where interaction with the samples under test should be minimized.
High sensitivity Thermal Imaging has been mostly used in defense and aerospace application. In recent years, the appearance of a new generation of lower cost/lower sensitivity uncooled detectors has led to an increased use of thermal imaging for a wide range of applications, such as security; industrial monitoring; fire-fighters, automotive (night driving), commercial aviation, NDT and even sports.
In general, the uncooled detectors used in these commercial applications are of a low grade. In contrast, DIR Technologies is making use of high sensitivity cooled and uncooled sensors that were developed for extremely demanding applications and have the highest sensitivity available in the market.
About DIR Technologies
DIR Technologies is an innovative company that brings new solutions to the world of Pharmaceutical Product authentication, manufacturing and packaging process control. Based on advanced thermal imaging methods, DIR Technologies has developed a variety of non-contact applications, such as rigorous quality assurance techniques for the fabrication process and packaging of the pharmaceutical industry.
In addition to the thermal imaging capabilities, DIR Technologies is specializing in Image Processing, Machine vision and real-time data processing. DIR Technologies is leading the way in the use of Thermal Imaging in the pharmaceutical industry for PAT applications and has filed several patents on the subject.
Source: DIR Technologies