Ensuring package sealing integrity has long been an industry challenge, one in which the stakes are exceedingly high. Hanging in the balance are quality control standards that not only mandate pharmaceutical manufacturers’ adherence to strict guidelines and low tolerances, but also
define their incalculably priceless reputations. This is, of
course, because our quality control issues are a matter of
public safety rather than mere product efficacy.
The primary method being used today—sampling—
only allows for a percentage of packages units to be
inspected. Finally, however, technology has caught up
to meet pharma’s packaging integrity inspection needs.
Dynamic thermal imaging allows pharma companies to
inspect 100% of packaged products in a totally passive
manner without ever even having to touch them. Dynamic
thermal imaging ensures that every package that leaves a
facility is properly sealed, thus maintaining the necessary
sealing barrier to protect product efficacy.
The science behind thermal imaging is not, in and of
itself, new. As thermal imaging is so exacting, it has been
used as a “see-through” technology in some of the most
demanding operation environments, including the military, top-level security details, firefighting, and gas leak
detection. The best-possible detection this technology
affords can also be highly valuable for scientific and medical research, as well as in predictive maintenance studies
for buildings and public infrastructure projects.
Until very recently, however, these technologies weren’t
cost-effective enough to be considered commercially viable. The pharma industry marks one of thermal imaging’s
first forays into the global marketplace, with companies
such as Pfizer and others currently participating in trial
runs on select production lines.
How dynamic thermal imaging works
Thermal Imaging is an infrared imaging science that
detects the naturally emitted radiation in the infrared
range of the electromagnetic spectrum (roughly 3,000–
14,000 nanometers or 3–14 µm), then translates this
radiation data into images called thermograms. Because
infrared radiation is emitted by all objects above absolute
zero, thermal imaging makes it possible to examine products in an environment without physical contact or visible
The amount of radiation emitted by an object increases
with temperature; therefore, thermal imaging reveals varia-
tions or irregularities in temperature. At the height of its
precision, thermal imaging can detect changes in tempera-
ture so slight—as small as 0.02°C—that they were previ-
ously undetectable or, in the case of commercial ventures,
not economically viable. Thanks primarily to improved
cost-effectiveness in producing a new generation of lower
cost/higher sensitivity cooled and uncooled detectors, how-
ever, this has changed—and the resulting enhanced level of
Thermal Imaging Inspection
for Package Integrity
Real-time testing of product packaging provides 100%, non-destructive monitoring.
Inspection is performed
through the cap by
means of high-sensitivity
thermal imaging. Upon
being detected any
defective bottles are
removed from the production line.