EmbedTek developed a high-speed pill counter to replace the need for manual sorting of highly sensitive prescription medications. It has the ability to identify, count, and sort a variety of pill sizes and shapes as they fall from the top of the machine to the bottom. This breakthrough engineering allows a pharmacy to save time, improve accuracy, and prevent theft.
An original equipment manufacturer’s existing pill counter relied on the interruption of a laser beam to identify when an object was present to be counted. This forced the operator to hand-feed prescription pills into the machine and required one pill to interrupt the laser beam at a time in order to be counted accurately. If two pills interrupted the laser beam at the same time, they would be counted as one.
A vision system immediately came to mind as a solution to increase speed, but the variability in size, shape, and rotation of the pills as they fell would compromise accuracy. The EmbedTek team used commercial off the shelf (COTS) camera sensors and components, open source software, and a few rounds of trial and error to design and optimize an entirely new environment inside of the counter. Transitioning from a laser to a camera sensor allowed not only counting the pills but also identifying and storing visual evidence of what was dispensed.
The process starts with an area for the operator to fill the counter, and then a feed mechanism manages the speed at which the pills are dropped through. The feed mechanism also triggers a motion-activated camera and lighting system. Polarization filters and strobe lighting synchronize with the camera frame speed to ensure brightness and clarity, which is necessary in order to distinguish pills as they present in a wide variety of ways. Once the image is captured, the software uses machine learning to interpret the image and eliminate inaccuracies.
Our customer can now provide their customers who rely on quick, accurate, and verified pill counting with a solution that not only ensures quality but can record each counting session in the case they ever need to audit inventory or production processes. The vision system and specialized lighting environment make a next-generation technology possible without compromising manufacturing costs or drastically increasing the end-user investment.