Patient Kits (single-unit batches)


“For 10 years, we have had a vision of packaging the patient kits for our clinical studies using an automated process. This dream is now being fulfilled,” said Christoph Mettler, Head of Clinical Packaging and Labeling at F. Hoffmann-La Roche AG in Switzerland, delightedly.

The TLM packaging line from Schubert allots medication and placebos to individual patients and groups predetermined quantities are grouped together into multi-packs to form a personalised patient kit. In other words: It packages single-unit batches. What's involved here is higher mathematics on the one hand and utter simplicity on the other. At least for Schubert, that is. For decades, we have worked according to a principle which masters this challenge: combining intelligent software and a simple mechanical system for maximum flexibility.

The progress made by Schubert is demonstrated by the fact that the line for Roche was configured using standard components. The VMS controller, robotics, vision system, electronics, electrical system and mechanical parts, which fit together perfectly, all originate from Schubert and have proven them selves for years. According to Urs Vögtli, Procurement Manager for Equipment, Eng. Proc. Region Basel & EU/RoW, this was a key argument for guiding the investment decision: “The line does something special, even though it isn't a customised product. This is consistent with our safety culture as a pharmaceutical manufacturer.”

The line is comprised of seven sub-machines. The line-management system receives an Excel file with the patient data via a USB interface. When the order is started, line components like the vision system receive all the batch data they require.

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Pharmaceutical machines are different from normal packaging machines, which has resulted in the development of the TLM pharma-machine.

A Russian customer who wishes to remain anonymous is currently packaging 20 different packages on his new TLM pharma-machine. They are packed with various vials in packaging boxes with differing content. The vials pass into the machine via a continuously-running infeed belt in an upright position and are picked up by four TLM-F4 robot arms and placed onto a group conveyor which can accommodate all vial diameters.

The second sub-machine from the left is a box erecting and glueing machine, taking flat lying box blanks out of multi-lane magazines, erecting and placing them onto transmodule suction plates. The third sub-machine is a positioning station for packing inserts, which are also removed from a multi-lane magazine and placed on the suction plates of the transmodule.

In the fourth sub-machine, a F2 robot equipped with a loading tool picks the vials from the group conveyor and introduces them into the packing inserts so that the inserts and vials can then be placed into the package. The leaflet(s) is/are transferred from GUK dispensers into a stepping chain, transported to the closing station and placed in the packaging boxes during closing.

The "closing" sub-machine on the extreme right is already equipped with a magazine for separate lids for which there is no setup at present. The possible output per minute is 300.

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