7 Applications of Machine Vision in the Pharmaceutical Industry

By February 24, 2012January 24th, 2022Quality Control Insights

We cannot underestimate the value of quality control and assurance in the pharmaceutical industry. Quality issues can lead to dangerous repercussions to patients’ life and expose the company to reputation risk and litigation. Quality automation in the pharmaceutical industry is a must for quality assurance, compliance, and better documentation.

Inspection is the process of authenticating the quality of the production process and products in the pharmaceutical industry to supply a high-quality and genuine product to the customer. The inspection involves checking for non-compliance in the manufacturing process, quality assurance programs, production environment, and end-products. Inspection offers many advantages:

  • Maintain product quality standards
  • Minimize defects in the production process
  • Reduce downtime

Most companies in the pharma sector conduct self-inspection to eliminate irregularities and discrepancies in the overall manufacturing process. Of late, machine vision has become an essential aspect of quality in pharmaceutical manufacturing, which is realizing the significance of automation in the pharmaceutical industry. Machine vision inspection is applicable at various points in the packaging line in the pharmaceutical industry. It can be used in:

  • Primary packaging – Check for bottle/vial/container integrity, seal correctness and label accuracy. It can check for foil printing, film integrity, and wrapper consistency
  • Secondary packaging – Verify tray packing, pallets, and components integrity


Machine vision systems are automated inspection systems that combine artificial intelligence and imaging technology to conduct inspections in various ways. They offer many advantages over manual inspection:

  • They can perform high-speed inspection leading to better productivity.
  • They produce inspection results in real-time.
  • They can be customized for testing different kinds of packages, labels, codes, etc.
  • There is 100% accuracy meaning higher efficiency and precision in the inspection.

Machine vision is becoming an integral part of pharma automation. Pharmaceutical companies use machine vision in inspection in different ways:

1. Code Validation

Vision sensors, smart cameras, and embedded software perform optical character recognition (OCR), optical character verification (OCV), and can read bar codes and 2-D Matrices to validate codes on the product packaging. They check the correctness and legibility of lot numbers, manufacturing dates, expiry dates, and other critical label data.

2. Package Integrity

Customers are wary of buying products with tampered packaging. Machine vision for pharma automation embeds deep learning in the algorithms to check for the integrity of the packaging. It evaluates packages from various aspects:

  • Tabs sticking out
  • Insufficient sealing
  • Damage
  • Oil/liquid spots
  • Cosmetic defects and 
  • Dimensional defects.

Machine vision with homogenous lighting, high-resolution optical equipment, image processors, and software guarantee automation in the pharmaceutical industry, product sterility, and the right packaging.

Also, Read How to Improve Quality in Pharma Industry using Machine Vision

3. Surface Defect

Machine vision systems enable pharma automation. With unique light schemes, sensors, and cameras, they can detect surface defects like variation in dimensions and alignment mistakes. They can 

  • Highlight damages in capsules, tablets, soft gels, and transparent softgels
  • Detect wrongful shape, presence of dirt, deformities, or presence of bubbles
  • Check and report uneven surfaces on containers and medicines, engraving defects, etc. 

They can find out defects not visible to the naked eye. Moreover, they perform 2D and 3D testing. The tests are conducted at high speeds with optimal accuracy levels. Vision systems in manufacturing ensure reliable operations and quality products.

4. Contamination

Vision inspection system manufacturers offer solutions to check for foreign contaminants in solid, powder-based, and liquid products and highlight or reject units where they are present. Cameras and lighting can be customized as per the production line for better focus and in-depth quality validation.

5. Safety Seal

Machine vision provides safety seal inspection to verify packaging integrity. The vision system for pharmaceutical manufacturing can be installed within the production line, and it can check for popped caps or improperly sealed containers. This enables pharma automation in quality assurance and the pharmaceutical manufacturer can protect all products with properly applied safety seals.

6. Cap Integrity

Cap checks can be automated to detect tampering in caps of medicine containers, minimize product wastage and reduce product recalls. Machine vision systems can detect erroneous colors, crooked caps, fill level of the container, and the correctness of tamper bands. They can log defects in runtime at high speeds and high levels of accuracy.

7. Labeling

Labels need to be legible and accurate when it comes to medicines and medical equipment. For e.g. if 2.5 ml is misprinted as 25ml, it can lead to major health issues. Mislabeling can be harmful to patients and the company. At the same time, manual label inspection of labeling is slow and expensive. It is also prone to fatigue and errors. Vision inspection systems perform label inspection. They read barcodes and check the presence of printed material by using a tool to check the presence/absence of printed labels and identification codes. This process of label inspection identifies defects in the labels related to position, clarity, wrinkles, folds, etc., and prevents mislabeled information from being ascribed to products and medical equipment.

Qualitas deploys automated vision systems with the latest technology embedded with deep learning and AI that can spur automation in the pharmaceutical industry. We provide innovative solutions that can be customized as per your requirements.

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