Responsible for the full range of tasks from mixing and dosing to bottling and packing, the pharmacist of yesteryear was the original manufacturer of the majority of drugs dispensed. How times have changed: today’s pharmacies operate as specialised distribution centres for ready-packaged drugs. In the majority of cases, a wholesaler will operate an automated order-picking system to facilitate the downstream supply of individual pharmacists. This saves both time and money, simultaneously speeding up customer service. Script Pro from Mission in Kansas, USA, has now transferred this principle to individual pharmacists. To ensure an efficient transition, the automated dispenser system was designed according to the dimensions of conventional shelf systems used to date. This naturally means that there are restrictions regarding the size of the mechanical components incorporated. Committed to excellence, the manufacturer decided to team up with micromotor specialist FAULHABER. The result: a tailor-made drive system for automated pharmacy distribution.
Less is often more
When it comes to managing a diverse range of drugs, large-volume storage is essential. Distributors also have to deal with various means of packaging, such as loose filling of pills in larger storage boxes or ready-packed larger units in boxes, jars or tubes. A distribution system must be capable of selecting, counting and transporting all of these units in a manner that is fail-safe. Dependent on their surface composition, pills which are supplied in bulk are susceptible to clogging or sticking. Therefore, any unit incorporated within a dispenser system requires a high level of torque to overcome the problem of clogging. In parallel, the movement must also be precisely dosed in order to transport individually counted pills as reliably as possible. A miniaturised crane system proved a space-saving and cost-effective solution. The crane boom itself is the only component in the system that moves autonomously. It incorporates all the drives required – in the smallest space possible. In the system’s basic version, a crane boom operates in excess of 100 specially developed pill containers. The arm is driven into position in front of the storage container with an empty discharge box. A gearwheel at the bottom of the container is then driven over a crane jib gearwheel which acts from the front. Holes in the large supply gearwheel then open the way out for individual pills, i.e. into the dispensing box. Thanks to precise positioning of all components, this counting process is extremely accurate at 99.7%. Thus, on the one hand more space remains available for the storage containers as such and on the other hand the number of drives required is reduced dramatically. However, fewer drives also result in a higher load to the individual motor gear unit. Therefore, only robust, low-wear motors with corresponding reduction gearing are an option for long-term use.