IDS Imaging Development Systems Inc.
37942 Ids Production Of Vaccine Bottles Subejct Strict Controls

Corona: Vaccine Bottle Manufacturers Under Pressure?

April 6, 2021
An intelligent multi-camera system for the quality control of vaccine bottles helps producers avoid becoming a bottleneck in the vaccine supply chain.

Combating the Covid-19 pandemic is at the top of the global agenda. Providing vaccines to populations around the globe means providing around 8 billion doses—with only one for every person in the world. In addition to the availability of the vaccine, a decisive factor in the race against time is the accessibility of the glass vials. To ensure that the mass vaccination against the coronavirus does not fail because of the container, the producers of the vials are massively ramping up their production so as not to become the proverbial bottleneck in the supply chain.

However, medical-grade vaccine vials are not standard glass tubes. Whether rolled-rim bottles, threaded bottles or ampoules, they are all made of the special glass borosilicate and require customized production lines. For example, the glass must be resistant to a wide range of chemicals and temperature changes and must not contaminate medicines. Any interaction between the container and the liquid inside must be prevented, as any chemical interference could affect the vaccine. Even the smallest scratch, crack or fissure can render an entire batch unusable, contaminate the line during the filling process or even lead to a machine standstill.

The demands on manufacturers are enormous: it is not only a matter of producing large quantities quickly but also of maintaining particularly high-quality standards. Industrial cameras from IDS Imaging Development Systems GmbH in Germany are currently becoming key components in demand. In an intelligent multi-camera system for the quality control of vaccine bottles from Isotronic GmbH, they take care of the image acquisition.


Vaccine vials usually hold between 2 and 100 ml of liquid. They are on average 45-mm high and 11.5-mm wide. Manufacturers use borosilicate glass for this purpose to keep the vaccines in the required stable condition during storage and transport—even at extreme temperatures. The small containers for the precious cans are subject to high-quality requirements. At the same time, large quantities currently have to be produced in the shortest possible time. What is needed is very fast quality control with high reliability in defect detection—how can that work?

When increasing production capacities, efficient solutions that can be integrated quickly are in demand. The "VialChecker" developed by Isotronic meets this growing demand exactly. "Our system enables high-speed processing and is usually used at several points in the production line," explains Gregor Fabritius, Managing Director at Isotronic. The system works with up to eight cameras per unit, the camera models vary depending on the requirements of the respective control task.

For example, they observe the laterally rotating tube glass or the glass bottom and provide high-resolution images. "The IDS cameras capture at least 20 images per rotation, allowing up to 120 vials per minute to be inspected for dimensional accuracy or surface condition with very high precision," emphasizes Valentin Mayer-Eichberger, Chief Operating Officer at Isotronic. Accuracy is up to 0.01 millimeters for dimensional testing. Defects such as cracks, scratches, chips, inclusions or stains, on the other hand, are detected with an accuracy of 0.1 square millimeters thanks to the powerful cameras. Intelligent software enables accurate fault description analysis and classification.

Testing takes place at various points in the manufacturing process, such as directly after the bottles have been formed or shortly before packaging. A system usually supports between three and eight cameras, so that different measuring stations can be integrated along the production line. "Depending on customer requirements, the system is specified or supplemented with appropriate sensors or cameras, for example, to measure glass thickness," explains Valentin Mayer-Eichberger, Chief Operating Officer at Isotronic. "If more than eight cameras are needed, several computers are sent into action."

Depending on the requirements and the testing task, different camera models are needed for the measuring station. Currently, Isotronic mainly uses the IDS camera family GigE uEye CP. They offer maximum functionality with extensive pixel pre-processing and are perfect for multi-camera systems such as the VialChecker thanks to the internal 120 MB image memory for buffering image sequences. The cameras deliver data at full GigE speed and, thanks to PoE ("Power over Ethernet"), also allow single-cable operation up to 100 meters.

One of the preferred models is the UI-5250CP-M-GL with a 2 megapixel CMOS sensor, one of the most sensitive sensors in the IDS portfolio. It is available in two versions, mono and color, and is characterized by outstanding light sensitivity. In addition, it offers various switchable shutter modes that enable the image-true capture of moving subjects or the particularly noise-free recording of high contrasts. "This is particularly important for the fast, reliable detection of defects on the glass surface," says Valentin Mayer-Eichberger, explaining the choice of the uEye camera from IDS. This allows either several characteristics to be checked simultaneously or the AOIs to be captured in an exposure series with different parameters. This small powerhouse with a frame rate of 52 fps is thus predestined for the various inspection tasks along the production line at high speed: "The system enables high-speed processing, it manages up to 120 cycles per minute," Valentin Mayer-Eichberger underlines. Besides the convincing performance of the cameras, however, other factors play a role.


The IDS cameras are directly connected to the system using C++. A software algorithm specially developed in your company detects errors and outputs the error message via the monitor. "We not only have a measurement system that reports good/bad, but also records the quality of each product and displays statistics over time. The machine adjuster uses this to check that everything is still correct and that the bottle has been adjusted well."

The Isotronic software has an intuitive, user-friendly interface that has been developed to meet the needs of customers. In addition, the VialChecker is optimized for remote support with continuous updates and software improvements. Valentin Mayer Eichberger is convinced: "This is the basis for a dynamic, sustainable system. We use machine learning for demanding tasks such as error classification. On-site or cloud-based solutions for handling large amounts of data, as well as detailed analytics and process optimization are part of the scope of services.

It is possible, for example, to analyze the frequency of faults over time as well as to monitor tool wear and raise alarms. The cloud service for production monitoring is extensive: "At the end of production, we calculate charts per quality measure. Certificates on the accuracy of the measurements can be issued for the acceptance of the measurement system."


Experts estimate that global demand for vaccine vials will further increase by one to two billion over the next two years. Vaccine vial manufacturers worldwide are ramping up production of the glass that is supposed to protect the precious liquid. To ensure that this valuable liquid is protected accordingly, automatic, high-performance testing systems are more in demand than ever to guarantee the immense demand for quality. "We think that we are meeting a growing demand here with our cameras and are pleased to be able to make a corresponding contribution to combating the pandemic," explains Jan Hartmann, Managing Director at IDS Imaging Development Systems.

"In addition, there is a general growth in the industry and in demand from the Asian region—and that even before the pandemic," notes Valentin Mayer Eichberger. Good prospects for systems like the VialChecker: It helps producers avoid becoming a bottleneck in the vaccine supply chain.