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Research, Development and Innovation

IMA’s vocation in the pursuit of innovation reflects our strong orientation to be seen as a solution provider rather than just as a machinery vendor, this approach has always been a distinguishing characteristic of IMA and has resulted in a strong market position. Research and development costs in 2021, equal to 3.6% of revenue; amount to 61.0 million euros, up from the 60.2 million euros last year. This item includes the research costs incurred on the technological upgrading and normal revamping of standard products. The cost of customizing standard products and the cost of custom-made developments on the specific request of the customer are not included, as they are part of the cost of sales and, as such, invoiced directly to the clients.

THE ORGANIZATION OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT AND INNOVATION

Given the complexity of the markets in which it operates and the dynamism of its growth, IMA requires a greater centrality and transversality of research and development skills, implemented by following two guidelines:

  • research and development of machines and plants for specific market segments, made within the individual divisions;
  • experimentation and implementation of new technologies, technological scouting, international cooperation relations with research centres.
  • adoption of a widespread and collaborative approach to innovation, which aims to stimulate the ideas of individuals, including through continuous training in the field of technological innovation of new hires in the Research and Development departments and to enhance the contribution of Marketing, constant analysis of machines and scouting of enabling technologies. 

With a view to open innovation, IMA is consolidating its presence in Boston with support activities for the birth of innovative start-ups and collaborations with departments of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on projects of common interest. Among the various activities, we note the collaboration with two spin-outs of MIT. Firstly, Continuus Pharmaceuticals Inc., a project focused on new integrated Continuous Manufacturing technologies that make the production process of active pharmaceutical ingredients more efficient and rapid, thus helping to strengthen IMA’s leadership in the production of machines and plants for the pharmaceutical sector. Secondly, INKBIT LLC.MIT., a project on the innovative “additive manufacturing” technology, which IMA helped develop in 2017 to integrate artificial intelligence techniques into the additive printing process.

To ensure the dissemination of knowledge and stimulate new ideas, new hires from the Research & Development departments follow a path of continuous training on technological innovation, for example on real time operating systems, on the software framework produced for the use of Personal Computers as a machine controller, on mechatronics, on the development of industrial software for automatic machines.

The smart machine and smart factory projects are being developed in cooperation with research centres and funded projects. The currently active projects are:

  • ROSSINI (Horizon 2020): design and development of modular platforms for the integration of robotic technologies and human operators in an industrial environment;
  • IDM (IMA Digital Manufacturing), co-financed by the Emilia-Romagna Regional Authorities: creation of an IMA research centre to support digitisation of the Supply Chain and the use of additive manufacturing;
  • I-MECH, co-financed by the European Commission and MIUR: intelligent mechatronic systems.
  • SENECA (Systems Enabling Efficient Cognitive Automation), financed by the Ministry of Economic Development and the Emilia-Romagna Regional Authorities: projects of cognitive automation, advanced sensors, autonomy, simulation and artificial intelligence;
  • Seven projects managed by the BI-REX Competence Center and co-financed by the Ministry of Economic Development on the topics of additive manufacturing, big data, cyber-security and predictive maintenance.

RESEARCH, DEVELOPMENT AND INNOVATION WORLDWIDE

IMA subsidiaries around the world are also supporting various projects and cooperating on research and development with universities and research institutes. In the United States, IMA companies carry out school-work rotations, internships and research projects, in collaboration with technical schools, universities, associations and local research bodies. In Asia, several IMA companies are members of international research and development associations, such as ISPE (International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering) and IPEM (International Pharmaceutical Engineering Management).

PATENTS FILED AND GRANTED IN 2021 (out of a total of more than 2,700 patents and patent applications pending worldwide)

 

 

PATENT APPLICATIONS FILED (OF WHICH DESIGN)

PATENTS GRANTED (OF WHICH DESIGN)
IMA Life North America inc. 9  
Telerobot S.p.A. (absorbed by IMA S.p.A. with effect from 01/01/2022)  4 12

Ilapak Italia S.p.A.

1 4

Ilapak International SA

2 1
IMA S.p.A. 146 223

Teknoweb Converting S.r.l

1

1

Perfect Pack S.r.l.

1

 

Eurosicma Costruzioni Macchine Automatiche S.p.A.

1

1

ATOP S.p.A.

29

58

Delta System & Automation LLC

1

ALPHAMAC S.r.l.

6

1

Tissue Machinery Company S.p.A.

5

2

 

IMA DIGITAL

 

IMA continues to focus its Research and Development activities on digital innovation and the implementation of technologies linked to Industry 4.0 and Smart Manufacturing formats. All the strategies for technological growth have been incorporated in IMA Digital, a global project that involve all sectors of the Company. The initiative aims to create products and services aimed at supporting partners and customers in technological advancement. The concept of Smart Machines led to the creation of the new function Connected Machines DataOps, intended as a point of connection between IT and OT and active on DATA sourced from manufacturing and on the management and processing services connected to them.
The following are some of the technologies on which IMA has focused its attention:

• IIOT;
• Artificial Intelligence;
• Collaborative robotics;
• Advanced automation;
• Additive manufacturing;
• Big Data.

To give the initiative organic unity and planning, four macro-areas of reference and development have been identified:

Smart Machines, dedicated to the interconnection and digitisation of the plants. Related projects:Connected Machines, Sentinel App, HMI 4.0, Cobots and Artificial Intelligence.

Smart Services, focused on developing services for partners and clients. Projects relating to Connected Field Force, Smart Service Suite, Digital Room, Service Portal.

Smart Factory, dedicated to the enhancement and innovation of IMA’s physical infrastructure. Related projects: Smart Manufacturing, Digital Working, Smart Material Flow, Additive manufacturing, Virtual Commissioning, Connected Supply Chain, Enterprise PaLM, Smart Documentation.

Smart Organisation, dedicated to the development of digital solutions for the improvement of communication and the growth of skills of IMA employees. Related projects: Business Intelligence Dashboards, Human Capital Management, Global IT Service Desk, Quality 4.0, Global Intranet, E-learning, Enterprise Planning.

In 2021, the development of the IMA Digital project led to the marketing of the following products and services in the field of Smart Machines:

A4Gate
hardware and software platform for the secure collection and transfer of production data to storage devices.

Sentinel
autonomous monitoring platform for the performance of production plants

IMA Control Room
remote monitoring service of machines with customised reporting

 

THE MAIN INNOVATIONS AT IMA IN 2020

The impact of COVID-19 extended to innovation as well. In fact, during the initial phase of the pandemic, IMA decided to focus skills and resources on the development, as quickly as possible, of a high-speed line for the production and packaging of surgical masks. In addition to the entire supply chain, this project involved various IMA businesses around the world, starting with Teknoweb Converting, which provided the ideas and the basic machine to be worked on, and Ilapak and Ciemme for the final packaging.
The first line, known as FACE 400, was delivered in less than two months and was selected inter alia by the civil protection agency to produce surgical masks in order to help satisfy needs at a national level. IMA Active went as far as exploring Continuous Manufacturing, the new production paradigm that combines together into series the various production technologies, ensuring an uninterrupted flow of materials, from raw materials to the finished pharmaceutical.
The process is constantly monitored in real time thanks to the latest generation of PAT instruments and upstream and downstream regulation algorithms, so as to obtain a product that is invariably compliant. Recent studies on the possible increase in efficiency arising from the implementation of Continuous Manufacturing in the pharmaceutical sector show the drug cost would be lower by up to 40% than the current batch production, a reduction of up to 80% in the size of plants, with a consequent reduction in energy consumption, and a reduction in production times of up to 90%, with an increase in the quality of the drug. CROMA, the new continuous tablet coating machine, marked IMA’s first step towards Continuous Manufacturing. Scaled to work downstream of a medium speed tablet press, CROMA is designed to work on a continuous and seamless product flow through the modules. Modularity is the key feature of the project: CROMA can mount up to four modules, which can be connected either in series for increased weight tolerance, or in parallel for a greater capacity. The result is maximum flexibility in terms of machine configurations and process performance.

IMA SAFE is exploring innovative and flexible packaging systems suitable for the production of small batches and innovative sensors applicable to its systems. Various examples include:

  • Trit-one: robotised cartoning island. Modular cartoning machine suitable for producing virtually any pharmaceutical package without the need for format parts;
  • New count sensor: a sensor for counters, capable of detecting flaws in the tablets with great precision before final packaging.

 

IMA AND PRODUCT SUSTAINABILITY

In response to growing attention on environmental sustainability issues, both within the company and at the global level, IMA has carried forward projects and initiatives aimed at reducing the environmental impact of production processes, in continuity with the policies developed in recent years to meet the needs of high profile customers and partners. In the packaging machinery industry, actions are focused on the development of solutions aimed at reducing the resources used, while at the same time favouring the use of new materials with a lower environmental impact. In 2021, IMA committed to strengthening the network of laboratories OPENLAB, with the establishment of a new laboratory in the United States, which will join the IMA one in Ozzano and the Ilapak ones in Lugano and Arezzo. The expansion of the OPENLAB network aims to encourage an ever greater understanding of local needs in terms of environmental sustainability, with the aim of supporting the path towards the use of eco-sustainable wrapping materials.
The OPENLAB laboratories have the following aims:

  • accompany the various divisions of the IMA Group and customers in a conscious choice of packaging materials;
  • to direct manufacturers of packaging materials towards more sustainable choices and in line with the needs of clients, consumers and the academic and institutional world;
  • actively work on the development of low environmental impact materials, recyclable, biodegradable or compostable;
  • collaborate with research centres, for example via the Ph.D study grant made available to DICAM (Department of Civil, Chemical, Environmental and Materials Engineering) at the University of Bologna for work on “Polymeric materials for eco-sustainable packaging”;
  • contribute to the creation and development of working groups, projects and / or consortia including all the players in the supply chain, in order to accelerate and strengthen the circulation of ideas and the creation of solutions specifically addressing any critical issues related to new types of eco-sustainable packaging.

For years, IMA has promoted the IMA NoP – No Plastic Program, a transversal project across the whole company to realise a wider and more systematic introduction of eco-sustainable materials within the entire supply chain.
Among the many projects under development focused on sustainable packaging, the following initiatives are worth mentioning

  • the new CT11 machine for the packaging of tea and herbs in sachets, using biodegradable packaging materials of natural origin;
  • the innovative cardboard wrapping “Parenteral Paper Packs“, for parenteral products on the continuous cartoning machine of the DYNAMICA model;
  • the new model of horizontal flowpack machine “Delta full ultrasonic” with high speed for the flexible and interchangeable management of both new generation hermetic recyclable polyolefin-based (PE or PP) packaging and old generation non-recyclable materials.