Medical OEMs can reduce waste and eliminate the converting process by bringing packaging in-house. One of the easiest ways to add packaging capabilities is by using automated equipment. This article highlights several machines for use in packaging finished products. Also featured are new packaging materials that offer reduced moisture and increased peel performance.
Automated Systems Offer a Variety of Packaging Solutions
The PalletWorld palletizing system from Motoman can be customized through the use of add-on modules.
A fully integrated, modular system is designed for high-throughput palletizing. The PalletWorld from Motoman Inc. (West Carrollton, OH) features an EPL-series robot and an NX100 controller with menu-driven application software. Preengineered modules are integrated with the robot to achieve desired performance. Modules include package grippers, valve packs, and in-feed conveyors. Pallet locators, racks, and out-feed conveyors are also offered. The system can be customized using the flexible add-on modules. The system has an average mean time between failure of more than 62,000 hours for both the robot and controller. Standard palletizing grippers can handle a range of bags or cases. The unit is protected from power loss with special power-failure-recovery processing. Its absolute encoders require no homing operation after a loss of power.
The company also offers PC-based tools for its line of robots. Its MotoPallet PC-based simulation software works with its MotoSim EG off-line programming and simulation software. MotoPallet software uses a process programming approach. It allows the user to think in terms of boxes, pallets, and pallet patterns, rather than robot, cycle times, and payloads. Both software programs can optimize operations based on box size, shape, and orientation requirements.
Circle Packaging’s Integri-Seal form-fill-seal machine comes in single- and dual-lane configurations.
Four-side-seal packages can be made using a horizontal form-fill-seal machine. The Integri-Seal from Circle Packaging Machinery Inc. (De Pere, WI) can make packages with secure, sterile seals. Applications include wound dressings, sterile field swab sticks, catheters, syringes, and sutures. Each unit features a seal-validation system and a color touch screen display. During normal operation and at process setup, the display monitors speed, single-point temperature, and single-point pressure. All electronics are made by Allen-Bradley. The Integri-Seal is offered in single- and dual-lane configurations. Each type features quick hot changeover, single-point temperature, and pressure control. A long-dwell traveling cross-seal with touch screen temperature controls is also included. The unit can also print out operation parameters that include date and time stamps.
A line of thermoform-fill-seal (TFFS) systems helps medical kit packagers simplify production and sterilization processes. The TFFS systems from Multivac Inc. (Kansas City, MO) enable companies to decrease material costs, as well as create compact, user-friendly packaging.
The machines create kits by custom forming the bottom web of material into sections. This allows the package to hold several medical devices at once. The items are then top-loaded into the sections. Finally, the top web of material securely seals the package. Printing capabilities can also be added to the process.
Since several medical products are housed in one kit, the sterilization process is streamlined. In addition, the machines can group related items. As a result, less material is used and production is more efficient.
“Kit packaging is gaining popularity among medical companies,” says Michel Defenbau, Multivac’s president. “It aids the entire supply chain, from production and sterilization through warehousing and distribution.”
Technik Packaging Machinery offers a cartoning system that packages products at rates up to 60 pieces per minute.
A cartoning machine processes smaller products at rates up to 60 pieces per minute in a footprint as small as 40 ¥ 38 in. The Carton King from Technik Packaging Machinery (Covington, GA) was created for the company by a German manufacturer.
Using a rotating turret and a modular design, the machine has room for a range of carton blank sizes. The unit offers several options for printing, embossing, and labeling. It can also provide hot-melt or tuck-in closures. Bar code verification and other quality control capabilities can be easily added. Automation options range from semiautomatic hand feeding to fully automatic product feeding. Leaflet insertion and discharge handling of completed cartons can also be automated. Both vertical and horizontal models are available.
Packaging Materials Focus on Moisture Reduction and Peel Performance
Medical device suppliers are offering products that reduce moisture in packaged medical devices. A moisture-scavenging sealant lamination from Alcan Packaging (Chicago) eliminates the need for automated equipment. Available as a preformed desiccating pouch, the unit can be used to package moisture-sensitive devices. Applications include diagnostic instruments, transdermals, and wound-care products. The scavenger is built into the heat-seal layer of the lamination, so there is no need to add desiccants or salts. This reduces the risk of moisture release-back. The pouch helps protect against foil fracture, pinholes, and package-edge moisture penetration. It is made from FDA-approved resins and additives. No surface contaminants or residuals are used.
Foil header pouches from Amcor Flexibles are compatible for use during EtO sterilization processes.
Another company offers a peelable, moisture-resistant pouch for use in EtO sterilization processes. The foil header pouch is available from Amcor Flexibles (Mundelein, IL). The pouch provides a high-barrier, peelable package for medical devices. After EtO sterilization, the Tyvek header can be removed. This allows the product to be sealed within the pouch. The uncoated Tyvek header has a high level of porosity, which can minimize EtO sterilization cycle times. In order to reduce the risk of contamination, the company produces the units in a white room that is dedicated exclusively to making pouches and header bags.
Packaging used in form-fill-seal machines needs to display certain qualities, such as peelability. A medical film manufacturer has introduced a peelable top web that is suitable for use in high-speed applications. Offered by Perfecseal (Oshkosh, WI), HP-EZ Peel is a fully coextruded nylon-core top web film. The film is designed for use in critical medical device packaging applications. Advanced process control systems are used to reduce variations in film thickness. The film delivers consistent peel performance, mechanical strength, and processing efficiency.