The strive for efficiency is a constant goal in many industries and the pharma and life sciences sector is no exception. Collaborative automation is already proving beneficial for many areas of the industry and its uses go beyond simply replacing humans with robots.
The theory behind collaborative robots – or cobots – is that they work alongside humans. This may be to assist and speed up operations or to carry out a menial task and allow humans in pharma and life science companies to focus on other areas such as research and development.
So what are the main areas where cobots are being used in pharma and life sciences?
Large scale dispensing can be carried out using cobots, dramatically increasing the rate at which prescriptions can be ordered and fulfilled. Cobots can be programmed to perform repetitive tasks and can also be set up to identify different types of medicines. They can be tooled to recognize the size and weight of pills as well as read barcodes. And equipped with sophisticated gripping mechanisms, they can select and dispense the correct medicines.
In some instances, they can also monitor stock levels of particular drugs and send instructions or signals for ordering replenishments when stocks are low.
The robotic arms in cobots are incredibly versatile and can be used for a range of tasks. They can be programmed to work independently or with human collaboration.
Assembly applications range from putting together bulky parts to fitting miniature objects. Software can be developed and installed to program cobots to assemble medical items such as prosthetics and implants. Note that there are also smaller robots specialized in precise, high-speed pick-and-place applications that enable the assembly of smaller parts such as glass vials with covers and tube coils with end fittings.
Packaging and Palletizing
Pharma and life science rely on the smooth process of creating, processing, fulfilling orders, and packaging and palletizing is an integral part of that. Cobots come with innovative gripper technology which allows them to lift and move items of varying shapes and weights. This not only alleviates the stress on a human body but also allows for a higher volume of items to be packaged and palletized.
Cobots contain sophisticated computer vision and machine-learning systems, meaning they can adjust and recalibrate for obstacles and irregular items.
Cobots can be programmed to perform repetitive tasks which, with all the will in the world, can become quite tedious for humans. The main advantage here is that cobots don’t lose focus as humans can and this is an indispensable feature when it comes to quality inspection.
They can maintain the same precise standards at all points of the quality inspection process. This is invaluable to pharma and bio/life sci companies where precision and quality is vital.
Stacking and Sorting
Pharmaceutical supplies must be stored correctly and securely. Any error in improperly stored supplies can have serious consequences. Cobots can assist with tasks like tray stacking thanks to 3D vision calibration. A cobot can use a 2D picture of an object to determine a 3D shape. This can allow it to lift and stack trays. It can also remove and replace items from a tray.
Using cobots can greatly increase efficiency and precision – two key areas for any pharma or life sciences company. Reach out to a Knotts representative to find out what cobots can do for you: firstname.lastname@example.org or 908-464-4800.