Pilot 3: Inline Filling & Stoppering and Tea Bag Machine

IMA is world leader in the design and manufacture of automatic machines for the processing and packaging of pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and food. Several outcomes of the I-MECH project will be tested on an IMA in-line filling & stoppering machine and an IMA tea bag packer.


An in-line filling & stoppering machine is used for filling liquid solutions into cylindrical vials and for rubber stopper insertion. The IMA filling machine can reach a very high accuracy thanks to a volumetric dosage system based on pumps and by verifying the actual weight of each vial by means of a pair of checkweighers, one for measuring the tare and one for the gross weight. The pumps can correct their stroke in order to compensate any dosage drift. The system is equipped with controlled axes to accomplish all the functions in a flexible manner and can be automatically cleaned and sterilized after completion of a batch.


The latest generation of IMA tea bag machines has been developed for knot technology and is the first one able to produce knotted tea bags at high production speeds, ensuring the highest efficiency rates. The bags are attached to the tag and the cotton thread using two simple knots, no additional metal staple or other packaging materials are required.


The future of this type of packaging machinery relies on its flexibility and adaptability to many different requirements of the customers, with particular relation to an increased production speed. This imposes a high performance burden on the machine controller based on an industrial computer. Furthermore, all these machines integrate vision systems, for example to check the quality of the knots in a tea bag machine, which further increases the workload imposed on the machine controller. The increase of the clock frequency is reaching its limits and the only way to overcome the issue is to harness the potential of multi or many core hardware architectures.


Multi-core systems are not sufficiently mature to allow guaranteeing the hard real-time requirements of the addressed setting, due to the mutual interferences of tasks simultaneously executing on different cores, and concurrently accessing shared resources like network controllers, I/O devices, GPU accelerators, and shared data structures. The I-MECH project will integrate the latest achievements from the real-time systems community in the realization of multi-core Real-Time Operating Systems (RTOS) and execution models to achieve a predictable execution for the two addressed industrial automation settings. Hypervisor-based solutions will be investigated to integrate motion, control and vision modules into a multi-core, multi-OS architecture suitable for industrial production standards, without affecting the real-time requirements of either module. Both IMA packaging machines will be used to test multi-many core related I-MECH building blocks.