Finnish company Newlcon Oy’s Mega-Fixu storage and retrieval system completely automates the identification, shelving and dispensing of medications, enabling pharmacists and medical staff to streamline their storage management. Regarding scale and cost, each NewIcon Mega-Fixu storage system is custom-tailored to fit the size and turnover of the particular pharmacy. To accomplish these tasks, Newlcon Oy needed a solution that could integrate PLC, image processing, and database functions.
Newlcon Oy chose to have the control system and database run on a Beckhoff C6650 Industrial PC (IPC) equipped with an Intel Core i7 quad-core processor as well as a RAID controller and redundant hard disks. The control system, database, and ERP link are based on TwinCAT automation software.
“The reliability and performance of the IPCs are critical to us because the database comprises 150,000 data points for the various storage positions,” explains Mika Rissanen, automation manager at NewIcon. “Also, the openness and modularity of the solution were among the criteria that solidified our decision to employ PC-based control technology. The modularity of our system perfectly matches the modular control architecture offered by Beckhoff. We also had the ambitious goal to integrate the database, image processing, and automation system on a single PC platform.”
The Mega-Fixu system has a robot-assisted input unit where each package is identified and measured via a barcode reader and an intelligent image processing system. Following this step, the control system determines the most suitable storage location for the package. The system’s X/Y servo axes controlling the robots that shelve and retrieve medicine packages are equipped with AM8000 series motors that feature One Cable Technology (OCT), as well as 2-channel AX5000 Servo Drives. The servo axes’ movements are controlled via DIN rail-mounted CX5020 Embedded PCs.
Future developments include predictive diagnostics and condition monitoring.
“Since the order picking systems for pharmacies and hospitals must work trouble-free and be highly reliable, it’s best when service and maintenance are performed proactively,” Rissanen says. “The number of systems we have shipped has increased so rapidly that we are considering an even more comprehensive diagnostic and monitoring approach.”
TwinCAT IoT and TwinCAT Analytics software tools will help in this effort, according to Rissanen. “They will make it easy for us to integrate cloud-based services and automated diagnostics into our systems in the future,” he says.