Gripping Solutions for Medical & Pharma Industries
Published on : Thursday 01-07-2021
Sunil Raibagi presents Zimmer Groups application examples of handling solutions in the medical & pharmaceutical industry.
The Zimmer Group is one of the world's leading manufacturers of automation, machine and furniture damping components as well as process technology. In addition, we are also an important partner of numerous well-known companies in the medical and pharmaceutical sectors, among others.
In the following paragraphs, we will discuss some current application examples in these industries. For example, a Swiss pharmaceutical company uses grippers of the Zimmer Group's electric grippers series. These support the analysis of coronavirus samples in a fully automated system for laboratory diagnostics. Grippers of the same type are currently used in coronavirus test centres in China. The electrically driven grippers for small parts, which are very easy to control, are responsible for sample handling, e.g., reliable transport and safe opening of the lids of highly infectious sample tubes. For these special tasks, the grippers offer adjustable gripping forces via IO-Link between 40 N and 500 N and jaw strokes between six and sixteen millimetres. In addition, the electrical grippers are equipped with a mechanical self-locking mechanism that prevents the highly infectious sample tubes from being lost or dropped, for example in the event of a power failure. In this way, the grippers hold the sample firmly – even without power supply. Another reason that convinced the customer was their maximum robustness and reliability. The housing of the electric grippers are made of hard-anodized aluminium, and the Zimmer Group's developers used a flat guide system that has been tried and tested for decades. This allows 10 million cycles to be handled without maintenance.
For a German medical technology manufacturer, our handling solutions are used in systems for filling sterile solutions (dialysis, bag filling with sugar solution). Another example is our customer which is a global healthcare company. Here, our radial grippers are used for the loading and handling of so-called EasyBags – liquid food for ventilated corona patients, among others. (Link1)
In addition to liquid food, monitoring systems for corona patients are also essential for survival, but who is supposed to operate these devices in pandemic times, when it is particularly important to keep a distance between patients. The company Cobot Team from Portland, Oregon, has come up with the right ideas. The result is a collaborative robot (Cobot) with a special HRC (human-robot-collaboration) gripper from Zimmer Group. It now supports the hospital staff, among other things, in adjusting the amount of oxygen for a Covid-19 patient. (Link2)
Another application example – this time without corona cover – comes from Tunisia. Here, grippers and swivel units of the Zimmer Group automate a cleaning machine for sterile glass vials for the company SEA Electronics. They used grippers of the GPP5000 series with their robust, hard-coated steel-in-steel linear guides designed for real universal use. Depending on the variant, they have a number of features (speed, high gripping forces, and long gripper jaw lengths) and thus offer the right solution for every application. When used with a protector, the grippers have a sealing class of IP67 – ideal for use in clean rooms or in the damp environment of the cleaning machine. (Link3)
Gripper solutions for handling aseptic filling process
Bausch+Ströbel Maschinenfabrik Ilshofen (B+S) filling and packaging systems are used worldwide to process high-quality liquid and powdered drugs, syringes, vials, cartridges or ampoules – from object cleaning and sterilisation to labelling or syringe assembly. The VarioSys system from B+S is a flexible production system for biotechnological products and pharmaceuticals. It allows fully automatic opening of tubes and enables RTU (‘Ready To Use’) vials in nests (packaging units) to be opened, denested, filled and stored fully automatically. The cover foil of the tubes is released by a thermal process. For this purpose, the tubes are transported into the appropriate positions by a clean room robot or gripper. After opening, a second gripper removes the RTU vials from the nest and transfers them to the next module for further bulk processing.
One big challenge for the Zimmer Group, in addition to perfect interaction with the robot, concerned the use of these grippers in a cleanroom system. Right from the outset this excluded the use of pneumatic grippers – for reasons of space alone, due to the cables and exhaust air. It was decided relatively quickly, therefore, to use a purely mechatronic gripper solution.
On account of the aforementioned challenge posed by the cleanroom, the grippers had to be designed with special consideration for the specifications of technical cleanliness, because they can come into direct contact with syringes and vials and/or with the nest. Commercially available grippers are not immune to particle transfer and unwelcome spreading of particles. Abrasion debris from the gripper itself can produce unwanted foreign objects. This means they present a particular challenge to designers of cleanliness-sensitive systems. As one of the first design measures, therefore, B+S chose easily removable and sealed enclosures or sheathings with a closed surface for the grippers to prevent particles from intruding into the process.
For B+S the flexibility of the grippers was also of critical importance, because the system itself has a very adaptive or modular design and the packaging sizes can change at any time. As a result, the two grippers best suited to the respective task, GEH6180IL and GEH6040IL, were selected from the extensive Zimmer Group portfolio. Both electric grippers have a large stroke and a servo drive with an integrated controller. The brushless drive technology guarantees not only individual force adjustment, but also control of position and speed. The safety of the system is also an aspect that cannot be neglected, because fragile glass and plastic are handled most. Accordingly, the grippers also have a mechanical self-locking mechanism, which prevents a vial from falling in the event of a power failure. (Link4)
The fact that Zimmer Group was also able to respond very quickly with the necessary modifications was particularly appreciated by B+S. They also appreciated the fact that the grippers have only a single cable outlet – that represented a very big advantage for the strictly tight space conditions in the cleanroom. Furthermore, equipping the system with IO-Link made it easy to read out specific data, such as the temperature measurement, position and number of cycles.
The ease of configuring parameters and the many additional features of the GEH grippers were very appealing B+S, as well as the active and open communication with the Zimmer Group experts. (Link5)
Application examples from other technology areas
In addition to fitting patients with prostheses using our damping technology components (PowerStop dampers for the med-tech company Ottobock) it is also worth mentioning that we also manufacture our own products, which minimise the risk of corona infection. (Link6)
Zimmer Kunststofftechnik GmbH – a subsidiary of the Zimmer Group – recently introduced a hygienic and antibacterial attachment for door openers. The hygienic door opener Hand-Held allows doors to be opened and closed with the elbow or forearm. This reduces the spread of microorganisms and minimises the risk of infection. The Hand-Held is compatible with most door handles, easy to install, quick to clean and is suitable for use in companies, authorities, public buildings, clinics or in private environments. (Link7)
For more information on Zimmer products please visit: https://www.zimmer-group.com/en/
Sunil Raibagi is Managing Director Asia & Vice President Strategy & Business Development at Zimmer Group. A strategic leader with over 30 years of experience in the manufacturing and automation industry, Sunil has built various brands and established distribution alliances in the Indian market for European and Japanese companies.
Sunil has displayed excellence in elevating business development activities for CNC controls and Automation & Robotics in multifarious customer segments in public as well as private sector. He is skilled in maintaining cordial relations with customers from bottom to top level and ensuring quality and service norms for attaining customer satisfaction & business retention. In the course of his career, Sunil has travelled all over the world extensively and has great connections with the players in the industry on executive levels.