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Mettler Toledo has announced that Contract Pharmacal has installed five Smartchek X-ray inspection systems and seven XE2 checkweighers on its packaging lines to assure product quality.

Contract Pharmacal develops, manufacturers and packages pharmaceuticals, over-the-counter drugs and dietary supplements for brand owners including Bayer, Glaxosmithkline and retailers such as Walgreens and CVS.

Matt Wolf, chief executive officer at Contract Pharmacal, said: ‘Last year, we decided we wanted metal detection on every packaging line but five of our lines package product in a foil-laminated film, which disrupts traditional metal detectors.

‘We decided to look at X-ray systems for those lines and considered technology from three different suppliers,’ he added.

Accuracy, durability, price and the reputation of the supplier were important selection criteria for the company.

Contract Pharmacal selected the Smartchek X-ray system from Mettler-Toledo Safeline, which uses a single beam, an electronically controlled low-powered X-ray generator and data and image analysis software to identify objects that are a different density than the product.

The systems identify foreign particles such as metal, glass, plastic and a variety of other objects and automatically remove contaminated products from the packaging line.

Wolf said: ‘Technically, we haven’t needed the X-ray systems because we haven’t had any problems with contamination, but it gives us the assurance we need that such an event, if it were to occur, will be caught before it leaves our plant.

‘We test each of our X-ray systems several times every day to be sure they are performing as promised.

‘Since we installed them one year ago, we haven’t had any problems with accuracy or reliability.

‘We’ve had zero downtime associated with our X-ray systems and we’re operating three shifts per day, five days per week,’ he added.

Contract Pharmacal produces more than four billion tablets, softgels and two-piece hard shells, in addition to powdered products, each year at its three manufacturing facilities and one packaging facility.

It handles around 300 active products, changing over each line once a day, on average.

Wolf said: ‘Changing over the X-ray systems is fast and accurate.

‘We use pre-programmed settings for each product we run.

‘The operator simply enters the product code into the colour touch-screen control panel and the accept/reject thresholds for that specific product are defined.

‘Then, to add a layer of assurance, our quality control group checks each system throughout the run.

‘The X-ray systems have three levels of password-protected access, so we’re sure that an operator isn’t changing the sensitivity of the systems,’ he added.

In addition to the five X-ray systems, Contract Pharmacal installed seven XE2 checkweighers from Mettler-Toledo Hi-Speed on its packaging lines this year.

With an accuracy of +/- 100mg, Contract Pharmacal can identify a package with one missing tablet and remove it from the production line.

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