Vision system cuts down on counterfeiting

The tracking and tracing of pharmaceutical folding boxes using a Cognex vision system is helping to cut down on the number of counterfeit pharmaceutical products in circulation and reduce health risks.

According to the EU Commission, the rate of counterfeit drugs has risen by around 400 per cent since 2005. The Customs departments of European countries seize up to 2.4 million counterfeit pharmaceutical packages each year. According to World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates, it is assumed that around 10 per cent of all medicines worldwide are counterfeits. In developing countries, that proportion even rises to 30 per cent. It is not only luxury pharmaceuticals such as Viagra that are affected. Even antibiotics, cholesterol drugs, and cancer drugs are on the list of copycat drugs. And the damage is not merely financial. Deicer in cough syrups or cement powder as a filler for pills endanger the health of patients. It is therefore more important than ever in the fight against drug counterfeiters to have a clear identification and traceability of the original products.

A. Nattermann & Cie. GmbH, a subsidiary of Sanofi Aventis Group, has effectively put a stop to counterfeiting. A mark and vision system from Krempien+Petersen Qualitäts-Kontroll systeme GmbH with a Cognex In-Sight 5613 vision system and DataMan 200 barcode reader subject the data matrix codes and printed text labels to thorough inspection.

Verifying labels safely

The new labelling system from I.M.A. (Industria Macchine Automatiche S.p.A.) verifies and checks the identification imprints applied to the side flaps of the product packaging. 

The DataMan 200, developed specifically for the efficient reading of even the most complex Data Matrix and linear barcodes, verifies that the label is applied in the first step. As the world’s first scanner with autofocus, its liquid lens ensures fast and highly accurate focus settings without any mechanical parts. To ensure optimal lighting conditions, it has integrated illumination with laser alignment.

Identifying codes and OCR

In-Sight 5613 performs quality testing at the next station. This high-speed system with ID reader has a resolution of 1,600 x 1,200 and checks the product-specific data matrix code and its associated variable OCR (optical character recognition) data. With its extensive library of proven vision tools, it also simplifies the implementation into existing systems, accelerates deployment, and eases product changeover.

The labelling system places high demands on all components used. The required 200-250 packages per minute were exceeded by almost 100 per cent. With cycle times of up to 400 identified and controlled drug packages, a more than veritable result is guaranteed.

Ready for the world market

“A significant contribution to the success,” according to Krempien + Petersen CEO Stefan Klöpping, “has been because of internationally standardised and proven components, such as the DataMan 200 and the In-Sight 5613 vision system from Cognex. Only 40 pieces out of 250,000 during the two-shift operation are scrapped each day, a successful number for any operation.”

With the new system, A. Nattermann is ideally equipped for the future challenges of the pharmaceutical industry. Friedhelm Hermanni, manager of engineering packaging, said: “When serialisation is required in the pharmaceutical industry, we are ideally prepared. With more than four decades of experience and strong partners at our side, we can accept any new challenge.”


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