Most COVID-19 vaccines require two doses, equating to roughly 11 billion doses to defeat the virus, and it’s likely that other booster doses will be required to guarantee immunity to virus variants. These doses must be packaged in glass vials, either tubular or molded, which are made of Type 1 borosilicate glass, a chemically inert material that’s highly resistant to enzymes and can withstand temperature variations.
In general, glass vials, as well as pharmaceutical glass packaging, are 100% checked with in-line inspection machines to detect cosmetic issues and reject defective containers. Keeping the production process optimized requires that production batches be periodically checked in the quality control laboratory, inspecting:
- External dimensions on body, finish
- Inside mouth diameter, profile
- Wall thickness
These sample-based controls, in most cases, are still performed with manual gauges – external dimensions checked with go/no-go; inside diameter and profile via profile projectors; and wall thickness with a micrometer after cutting the container. This method has drawbacks as these instruments don’t provide any quantitative information on the controlled characteristic and don’t collect data, so identifying production trends or deviations is difficult. In addition, results depend on the operator’s skill and require at least three operators per shift.
However, solutions such as VisiQuick from Marposs, offer a high level of automation along with several available controls. VisiQuick is a fully automatic flexible machine with automated handling that can measure a wide range of containers irrespective of their dimensions, shape, and color and without any operator intervention. It can measure:
- External dimensions (height, verticality, mouth parallelism, diameters, finish parameters) with optical technology (cameras)
- Mouth inside diameter and profile, with Marposs contact technology
- Wall thickness with chromatic confocal technology
- Labelling area profile (sinks and bulges), with Marposs optical technology
VisiQuick can be supplied with any or all the above-mentioned measuring stations. Containers are fed to VisiQuick by one or more conveyors, or it can be fed with samples diverted directly from the production line.
A semi-automatic option, the VisiQuick-mini, measures the same dimensions as the full version but requires manual container loading/unloading. For small pharmaceutical containers where measuring the profile opening diameter is challenging, as the bottle opening is small and only one-sided measurement is possible, a specific version of VisiQuick-mini is available. In addition to external dimensions measurement, it can measure inside diameter and profile and wall thickness.
With any of these single systems, glass container manufacturers can accurately and automatically perform the controls that currently require at least three people. Plus, it can collect data and detect any production problem in real time.