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Actemium has designed a robot to transport pharmaceutical powder on demand from one point on the production line to another.

For its pharmaceutical laboratory client, AZO, the specialist in automated raw materials handling, joined forces with Actemium, the VINCI Energies brand dedicated to industrial processes, to design an innovative robot.

The idea was to find a way of intermittently transferring pharmaceutical powder from the extruder that produces it to the next stage in the manufacturing process.

“This process offers greater flexibility in the management of transported materials and reduces the risks of product contamination.”

To replace traditional transport systems (screw, belt or tube conveyor) that ensure a constant flow, Actemium and AZO built an automated system able to grip and detach containers full of powder to move them from one point to another.

“This process offers greater flexibility in the management of transported materials. It also has the advantage of reducing the risks of product contamination, because only the containers need to be cleaned, rather than the entire conveyor system as is the case with traditional systems,” says Xavier Devolder, Business Unit Manager at Actemium Digital Factory Gent, in Belgium. 

Upstream simulations

The project, which has been operational since summer 2019 has had a number of challenges to overcome. “It took a lot of engineering work, including a huge number of simulations, to optimise the precision of the robot’s movements and avoid collisions with other equipment, given the very limited space within which it moves,” says Actemium Digital Factory Gent Branch Manager Fran Audenaert.

She adds, “As the client also wanted the operators to be as close to the robot as possible, we designed safety systems made from plexiglass and steel panels.”