X-ray Inspection for Pharmaceuticals, Medical Devices & Cosmetics

An overview of X-ray inspection systems and other technologies for medical devices, cosmetics and healthcare products

X-ray based quality assurance is more and more the best practice in the food industry. The question is: What can the healthcare industry learn from the food sector? What are the benefits of X-ray inspection technology in this segment?

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Produce safe products

The typical reason for using X-ray inspection technology is the detection of foreign bodies. In comparison to metal detectors, the sensitivity is not much affected by metal film and in most cases less effected by metal packaging in general. Besides different type of metal, they are used to find glass, ceramics and sometimes certain kind of plastics. This ensures the health of consumers and avoids expensive brand destroying recalls. Another typical field of application is the use of X-ray inspection technology to check fill levels. Besides these typical jobs, there is much more, where the benefits of an X-ray inspection unit are useful and can create added value to the user, depending on the product and the packaging.

Added value for the pharmaceutical industry

Blister packs are widely used in the pharmaceutical industries for tablets and capsules. In a single layer blister pack, X-ray inspection technology can be used to find missing elements (e.g. counting the tablets) as well as to detect broken tablets. Additionally, it can be checked, that the leaflet is not missing. In bottles, the fill level can be detected to ensure, that the customer gets the amount they are paying for and that the producers do not overfill. The same applies for tablets packed in cylindrical tubes. Additionally, the correct position of the cup can be checked as well as the potential presence of an additional dosage cup – even when the product is packed into a secondary packaging. Besides this, X-ray inspection technology helps to ensure, that certain other parts, like dosing spoons are part of the package.

What about the official approval for the pharmaceutical industry?

Despite the big advantages, there are many reservations against using X-ray inspection technology in the production of pharmaceuticals. But producers of pharmaceutical products should also think about the following: If the medicine or its ingredients travel by airplane the products absorbs a big amount of natural radiation. Besides this, cargo quite often is also X-ray scanned during the transportation, e.g. at the harbor. To prevent any issues with the authorities, pharmaceutical producers should declare in the approval process of new products, that they might use X-ray inspection technology. Then, depending on the rules, they might have better possibilities to use this modern quality assurance technology in the future, even they don’t plan it today.

Quality assurance for medical devices

X-ray inspection technology is also a good method to ensure the quality of medical devices. It is very useful to detect missing components or to check the correct number of products. For example, producers of contact lenses can ensure that there is the correct amount of product in the packaging. Producers of first aid kits can survey, if the scissors are included. Depending on the product, the presence of certain screws and springs can be detected. Respirator masks can be sorted, whether they contain a valve or a piece of wire. Besides that, X-ray Inspection Units can analyze the correct shape of certain components. E.g., syringes can be investigated, whether the needles are straight, bent or broken.

Benefits for the cosmetic industry

Producers of cosmetics also benefit from the advantages of modern X-ray inspection technology. Besides looking for foreign objects and fill level, they can be used to inspect, if all parts of the packaging are present. This includes parts of the packaging itself as well as elements of the product, like counting shaving blades. This technology is a good method, to verify that nothing is broken. For example, X-ray inspection technology can inspect the integrity of mascara brushes and that face powder is not crumbled. This can help ensure better customer satisfaction.

Serialisation – prevent counterfeiting

Healthcare products are very sensitive to counterfeiting. Modern Track & Trace systems are strongly related to quality assurance by X-ray, weighing and vision. Healthcare producers are well advised to select a supplier who is familiar with all these fields. Sophisticated manufacturers use the same structure of the HMI for all of these quality tools. This reduces again the training effort, the effort in daily operations as well as the possibility for mistakes during operations.

Combined system to create one quality center

X-ray inspection technology is a good technology but not the only one, which helps to ensure product quality and safety. Modern vision systems check the presence of labels and the correct printing e.g. of the expiring dates. Precise checkweighers ensure, that there is no underfilling or not to much give away due to overfilling. There are many advantages in combining all these systems into one unit. The most obvious is the reduced space consumption. Besides this, real combination systems only have one HMI. With this HMI, the whole system is controlled. This reduces the training effort as well as the effort for a product changeover in daily operations. It eases the lives of the quality assurance team and operational staff by clearly showing the quality and performance of the production process through a single user-friendly interface. In combination with an advanced data management software, it leads to a larger transparency for the management team.

X-ray scanner and vision inspection solutions

X-ray inspection systems guarantee a complete control due to their various product inspection possibilities. Using different software tools to identify and eliminate foreign bodies and other imperfections, guarantees the high quality of the products.

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Combination solutions: X-ray inspection & Vision inspection

Two inspection systems become one unit – the space required is halved compared to two single units. The world's most compact inspection unit SC-V from Wipotec provides the most comprehensive inspection options for maximum product safety and quality.

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Combination solutions: X-ray inspection & Weighing

The SC-W is a pioneer combination of innovative X-ray technology and the proven checkweigher technology in one compact design. The combination machine with a maximum output of 300 packages per minute meets essential hygiene requirements and is available as a multi-lane variant.

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