Small pharmaceutical manufacturers are often forced to create large clean room areas to house their production facilities, which can be a major expense for a small company. One machine builder hopes to change all that. K-Systems International Inc., Antioch, Ill., has developed machine designs with the clean environment actually incorporated within the machine itself. This technology promises to save millions of dollars in building construction and expensive cleaning services.

K-Systems' bottling and capping machine is constructed entirely from stainless steel and has a positive airflow through a HEPA filter (high-efficiency particulate air filter), which creates a clean atmosphere in the filling and capping area. Because of the high quality required by the pharmaceutical industry, all data on the process needs to be recorded and stored in various ways, both in a secure format as well as a standard CSV (comma-separated values) format. To achieve this, K-Systems uses the B&R PP200 control system from B&R Automation, Roswell, Ga., which incorporates PC-like features with a PLC architecture.

Two Acopos servo drives, also from B&R, control the bottle indexing and filling processes, the latter of which gets feedback after a bottle has been filled to achieve the maximum accuracy of filled weight. The system can handle various bottle weights and sizes including 15, 20, 35, and 55 ml at a rate of 30 bottles per minute. A weighing system uses two freestanding weight devices, which are also connected to the PP200 via RS232 interfaces. These devices check weight before and after the filling process, creating a precise and repeatable fill every time.

Recorded data can then be managed remotely, off-machine, by other PCs on the Ethernet network using standard office PCs, software, and HTML screens, giving users access to production information, data files, and diagnostics. Files can also be retrieved, deleted, or moved for future inspection or shipment with batches of bottles. With this new machine, K-Systems has incorporated in a single control solution what was previously achieved using multiple processors and more.