Q: Looking forward, what technologies do you anticipate having the greatest impact in 2018?
A: In 2018, robotics will have the largest impact in the industry, where we’ll see high-speed lines incorporate robotics to eliminate gloves in the isolator. For any isolator, the biggest challenge today remains the gloves. Large traditional isolators with multiple lyophilizers can have up to 40-50 gloves. The cost to replace gloves, the time it takes to test their integrity (whether this is visual or automated), along with the time-consuming microbial monitoring process, greatly impact the isolator turnaround time and are highly scrutinized by the quality and regulatory bodies focusing on the handling of the gloves. With a gloveless isolator, all of these issues go away.
The challenge to this is how you replace the function of “hands” in the isolator. Here’s where the use of master-slave robotic arms comes into play. Robots will replace the environmental monitoring program inside the isolator. The automatic decontamination cycles within an isolator are certainly better than manual sanitization. These decontamination cycles are also very close to sterilizing all of the surfaces. One has to ask, as we approach sterilization within the isolator, can we also achieve parametric release? Hypothetically, one could equate it to filling inside an autoclave after a sterilization cycle.
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