Choosing a robot for drug manufacturing – Things to consider

Robots have been present in the pharmaceutical industry for more than two decades. In drug manufacturing, they play a vital role in all complicated research and development processes, production, and packaging.

Robots can speed up the drug discovery process and carry out drug manufacturing tasks faster, more consistently, and more cost-effectively than manual labor, improving worker safety and quality.

Robots work efficiently, without breaks, vacation, or hesitation. They can work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, without stopping or tiring. A robot can perform a 96 man-hour project in 10 hours with more consistency and higher quality results. Robots increase workplace safety, leading to financial savings since few healthcare and insurance concerns are for employers.

There are three types of robots most commonly used in pharmaceutical manufacturing: (1) Cartesian, (2) SCARA, and (3) articulated.

  • Cartesian: Consists of two linear slides at 90 degrees to one another, with a motorized unit moving horizontally along the slides in the x- and y-axes. Cartesian robots’ main advantage is their low cost, though their limited range of motion limits their application. They’re frequently used in automation subsystems or machines that specialize in a single task, such as assay testing.
  • SCARA: Stands for “selective compliance articulated robot arm” and has four axes. The unique design of SCARA robots gives them a high degree of rigidity, which allows them to move very fast and with precise repeatability. SCARAs excel at high-speed pick-and-place and other material-handling tasks.
  • Articulated robots: They have not only more joints than SCARAs. They also have both horizontal and vertical joints, giving them increased freedom of movement. With greater flexibility of movement, articulated robots can perform almost any task performed by a human arm and hand. The most common articulated robots have six axes.

This post will discuss the top 10 things to consider when choosing a robot for pharmaceutical manufacturing. Here are the 10 important things to consider when choosing a robot from a specific manufacturer.

1. The reputation and the experience of the manufacturer: Look for a company that has carved out a name for itself in the industry and whose robots have withstood the test of time.

2. Documented MTBF: Robots must be dependable above all else, as they are frequently required to work two or three shifts per day, every day of the year. Manufacturers confident in their robots’ dependability will be happy to provide documentation of their mean time between failures (MTBF).

3. High maximum allowable moment of inertia: You should look for a robot with a high maximum allowable moment of inertia, which is a measurement of the amount of force it can exert. The higher the maximum allowable moment of inertia, the easier it is for the robot to lift and move a given payload, resulting in less strain on the robot’s motors and longer working life.

4. Continuous-duty cycle time: While comparing robot cycle times, make sure to check whether the figures are for continuous duty or only for one-hour bursts. If the latter is the case, the robot will have to operate slower in normal operation.

5. Compact, efficient robot design: Look for a compact robot design with slim arms and a small footprint that can make integration easier. It can also save valuable factory floor space. Besides, designs with concealed air and electrical lines keep the lines from interfering with other equipment and protect them from wear and damage, thus reducing overall costs.

6. Robot controller features: Compact size and light weight are desirable features to look for in robot controllers, as is fast processing speed, modular expandability (to accommodate additional peripheral equipment without purchasing a new controller), ease integration with a vision system, PLC, or other devices, and ease of service.

7. Affordable offline programming software: You need to make sure the offline programming software you’re looking at doesn’t have any pricey, advanced features that aren’t necessary for your needs.

8. Low energy consumption: Inquire about the robot’s energy usage. Robot arms that are well-designed, slim, and light consume less energy, so their motors use less electricity. This saves a lot of money in the long run.

9. Safety codes: Verify that the robot meets or exceeds all current safety codes to protect employees and limit your company’s liability.

10. Short training: Inquire about the duration of the required training. Excessive unproductive employee time and travel costs can result from unnecessarily long training.

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