Sepha, the Belfast, Northern Ireland-based packaging machinery expert, has developed what it claims is the world’s first tool-less vision-based leak detection machine for blister-packs.
VisionScan uses high resolution camera imaging technology to detect defects in individual blister pockets, and weak seals. Sepha said it developed the system to meet growing demand from pharmaceutical blister-pack manufacturers for an integrated low cost alternative to the blue dye test.
The company will officially launch the device at Europe’s largest packaging and process show, Interpack, held in Germany on 12th May.
Sepha spokesperson, Sarah Hession, told in-PharmaTechnologist the system works by comparing images of blister-packs at different vacuum levels.
“A fine grid is projected onto the surface of the packs and the camera system observes subtle changes to the way this grid is displayed,” she said.
“The changes are caused by the individual pockets changing shape under vacuum. In essence a good pocket will swell under vacuum, while a pocket with a hole will not, and this is observed by the camera system.”
According to Hession, VisionScan is capable of detecting defects and weak seals down to a scale of 15 microns, and using its projected grid it can accurately determine which pockets are defective, allowing manufacturers to better investigate the cause and improve their packaging processes.
“VisionScan not only provides an objective result free from operator interpretation, but it also provides test data in a secure form,” she continued.
“Therefore the drug manufacturer can have greater confidence in the quality of their blister packaging as they know the test has been carried out to a consistent standard and the data is reliable.”
Sepha’s new device faces stiff competition in a market already replete with leak and defect detection products. However, according to Hession, research has shown VisionScan to be both more efficient and, perhaps crucially, more cost effective than its biggest competitor.
“The most common leak detection method is the blue dye test,” she said, “VisionScan differs in that it’s non-destructive allowing any good packs to be returned to the production line and not wasted.
“The effectiveness of Sepha’s non-destructive leak testing technology over the conventional blue dye test was recently confirmed by University of Ulster.”
Hession claims the new device can test multiple packs in a single cycle and provide results in less than a minute, thereby reducing the need for operator input.
“In contrast, the blue dye test takes anywhere between 1-2 minutes and each pocket needs to be individually inspected after testing, thus results are dependent on operator interpretation,” she added.
Interest from India
Though not officially launched until May, Sepha says VisionScan has already piqued the interest of numerous companies.
Hession explained: “We have already received considerably interest in this machine, most notably from major pharmaceutical manufacturers in India. Currently, VisionScan is of particular interest to the manufacturers based in the emerging markets as well as generic manufacturers.”
In a statement released by the Belfast company, Sepha CEO, John Haran, said he believed the timing was right for a device like VisionScan to enter the market.
“Customers, particularly those in emerging markets, had been asking us for an accurate, flexible, easy to operate non-destructive blister-pack leak detection device,” he said, “We used our expertise in blister-pack leak detection technology and worked closely with them to develop VisionScan.”