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  • Writer's pictureMark Ruberg

Innovation in Pharma Packaging with XTS

Beckhoff linear transport systems provide the next step for packaging machines

Like many industries today, pharmaceutical product and medical device production are experiencing a digital transformation. Intensifying the challenges and opportunities, product quality and safety in these two industries directly and immediately affect consumer health, perhaps more than any other. Implementing greater data acquisition and adding track and trace capabilities are now mandatory, leading to the adoption of more Industrie 4.0 concepts. Pharma and biotech manufacturers, along with machine builder OEMs, require new automation technologies so their machinery can keep pace with this rapid change without adding exorbitant costs to the equipment. But to realize the benefits of some new technologies, OEMs must be willing to look at the basic mechanical design of their machines and redesign them if needed.

High-end linear transport systems offer the ability to exceed many of these requirements with high efficiency and precision in all areas from production to packaging. The eXtended Transport System (XTS) from Beckhoff Automation, for example, does this while increasing throughput, decreasing machine footprint by up to 50% and essentially eliminating downtime previously required for mechanical product changes. As a mechatronic system, XTS integrates the necessary power electronics, position measurement and EtherCAT communication in highly customizable motor modules, combining proven rotary and linear drive principles. The high accuracy, flexibility and repeatability of PC-based control enables dynamic motion control, which is now essential for biomedical and pharma packaging.

Real-world packaging applications — from bag filling and inline package assembly to product stream sortation and synchronization — have already proven the benefits of linear transport systems. In addition, Beckhoff offers an IP69K, stainless steel version: XTS Hygienic. This concept is perfectly suited to the wash-down requirements of pharmaceuticals. These best-of-breed linear transport systems — the hygienic concept and the standard system that has already been proven in numerous real-world applications — work the same way.

Beckhoff XTS Hygienic
XTS Hygienic delivers the power of linear transport in an I69K, stainless steel form factor.

Nearly unlimited movers transport product along mechanical guide rails, which offer options for varying product weights. Magnetic plates in the movers and coils in the motor modules generate propulsive forces to move at velocities up to 4 m/s and accelerations exceeding 100 m/s2. Each mover is treated as an individual servo axis, which can increase track-and-trace capabilities across the linear transport system.

While XTS offers complex functionality, its programming takes place in a universal, PC-based automation platform. With Microsoft Visual Studio® integration, TwinCAT 3 automation software provides a familiar engineering environment with a standard toolbox of functions such as automatic accumulation and mover collision avoidance, among other built-in features. Through the flexibility of PC-based control, changeovers that previously required time-consuming mechanical adjustments can now happen on the fly without stopping production and without adding cost to the control architecture.

The XTS enables pharma and medical device machinery to ensure consumer health. This linear transport system offers intelligent material flow, exceptional precision, real-time robotics integration, and efficient self-reconfiguration of movers based on lot, recipe or other product specifications. The ability to boost throughput and track custom products reliably puts Industrie 4.0 and IIoT concepts within reach, while enabling flexible mass production down to lot size 1. This makes XTS an important next step for all areas of the packaging industry.

Are you ready to revolutionize your packaging and pharma machines with XTS? Contact your local Beckhoff sales engineer today.


Mark Ruberg

Mark Ruberg is the Packaging Industry Manager for Beckhoff Automation LLC.

A version of this article previously appeared at PMMI's Healthcare Hub.


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