How the latest X-ray inspection technology adds up to a picture of health

Millions of people around the world rely on medication for conditions ranging from diabetes and heart disease, to migraine and depression. We all take it for granted that when we open a new box of drugs there will be one tablet in each section of the blister pack, along with a leaflet giving the instructions for use (IFU).

But think about this for a moment and you’ll realise that it is no mean feat. Ensuring there are no extra, missing, or incorrect tablets in a sealed blister pack on a high-speed production line is a challenge. If you work in the pharmaceutical sector, you will know that it is essential for safety reasons that the patient receives the correct dose and follows the IFU.

Long History of Pharmaceutical X-ray Innovation

We have a long history of developing X-ray inspection machines and bespoke technology for the pharmaceutical industry. Combining low-energy X-ray imaging with active pixel sensor (APS) technology enables resolutions that are 10 times greater than traditional end-of-line X-ray machines. This enables our pharmaceutical systems to achieve very high sensitivity.

G180 X-ray Inspection System
G180 X-ray System with APS

With an inspection zone created around each tablet pocket, our systems can detect missing or broken tablets. We can also detect contaminants such as metal inside metallic blister packs. Our technology can even detect paper inside cardboard thanks to our highly adaptive algorithms. This brings peace of mind that each box contains an IFU leaflet to ensure regulatory compliance. We also have systems to handle strip packs, with a guided chain conveyor that pushes up to six rows of strip packs through the machine simultaneously. Fragile packaging of strip packs puts tablets at risk of being crushed. So, as well as measuring the mass of each tablet, our technology also analyses the uniformity of each one to check for signs of crushing.

Improving Safety of Medical Devices

But it is not just tablets we have our X-ray eye on. Our technology can also check for assembly issues or foreign bodies in medical devices such as autoinjectors and powder inhalers. Our pharmaceutical X-ray systems can even cope with the challenges of inspecting subcutaneous osmotic insulin pumps. Here the drug is packaged in a hollow titanium rod and it is vital there are no bubbles as this may cause the flow of insulin to be interrupted. The radiography is very challenging as it involves inspecting organic material with air voids through a machined titanium enclosure. Our technology employs several techniques to greatly enhance the feature contrast such as mechanical stabilisation and combining multiple image sets.

You can see our X-ray technology in action at Interphex 2021 on 19-21 October at the Javits Center in New York – at our partner Scan American Corporation’s booth 2263. Our pharmaceutical inspection systems are all compliant with GAMP5 design standards. They can also incorporate 21 CFR Part 11 data integrity regulatory requirements. All you have to do is get in touch to discuss your own inspection challenge.

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