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3 November, 2021 - 10:19 By Tony Quested

Sapphire’s X factor takes Oval full circle

X-ray inspection tech pioneer Sapphire Inspection Systems has struck a deal with fellow Cambridge Cluster company Oval Medical Technologies for inline inspection of a new autoinjector platform. 

The move follows successful completion of an offline X-ray inspection machine for Oval's laboratories last year.

The Sapphire technology is automatically fed and motorised in different axes so that the autoinjectors can be rotated to perform quality checks on their needles and ensure other parts of the device mechanisms are within position tolerances.

The X-ray equipment can also detect foreign bodies in the drug container, such as metal or glass particles as small as 0.1mm in diameter, within formulations that would otherwise not be visible to an inspector – all at the rate of 20 autoinjectors per minute. Any out-of-specification products will then be segregated by a nest sorting system.

“The devices will be deposited by robot on to a circular conveyor belt that takes them through the X-ray machine,” said Sapphire founder and CEO Richard Parmee. 

“So it was crucial to ensure the conveyor belt couldn't shed particles that could compromise the ISO class 7 clean room at the manufacturing facility. Our technology also needs to communicate with the nest sorting system – a challenge we are familiar with, as we often have to seamlessly include additional process equipment in our solutions.”

Mike Savill, director of industrialisation at Oval Medical Technologies, added: “Sapphire Inspection Systems was the obvious choice for this demanding project as it has a 20-year track record of working on complex challenges in the medical device and pharmaceutical sector. 

“The motorised laboratory X-ray machine completed last year will be an invaluable capability in our autoinjector design and development work – enabling us to understand prototype internal mechanisms and check every last detail without disassembling the sample. 

“The new inline machine is now set to bring the same level of capability to the production line and ensure the highest levels of product quality.”

As well as designing bespoke X-ray inspection systems, Sapphire also provides a broad range of iterations to cater for hundreds of different products in the food, pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. 

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