Dhuanne Dodrill, president of Rollprint Packaging Products (Addison, IL), will present "New Developments in Medical Packaging Materials" at the MD&M West conference program on Tuesday, February 14. Rollprint specializes in flexible packaging materials, including extruded laminated film, foil, clear high-barrier composites, and pouches.
MPMN: What sorts of new developments in medical packaging materials will you highlight in your presentation?
Dodrill: Many of the recent advances in medical packaging materials have been in response to the needs of the end-users--the hospitals, nurses, and patients using the products. I will be focusing on some of the exciting new material solutions developed to address these needs.
Hospital-acquired infections (HAIs), for example, are receiving tremendous attention from both regulatory bodies and hospitals. Many of the novel devices recently introduced to prevent HAIs require a peelable sealant designed to hold concentrated alcohol. New peelable technology ideal for this purpose is now available.
Another packaging issue is that nurses consistently indicate that the ability to see the product prior to opening the package improves their efficiency. A quick visual check allows them to easily double-check product size and shape prior to opening the package. Advances in ultra-high-barrier clear materials provide solutions for even the most sensitive products.
Lower-cost packaging solutions that do not sacrifice performance are an important part of cost-savings initiatives and are, thus, in demand as well. Among the most interesting developments in this area are the improvements to the bottom webs used in thermoformable form-fill-seal applications that have uncoated Tyvek as the top web.
Finally, there are a variety of material advances that also aid hospitals in meeting their sustainability goals.
MPMN: How does addressing these market needs impact medical device manufacturing?
Dodrill: Interestingly, the solutions that address the needs of the end-users often provide a real benefit to the manufacturers as well. Packaging that allows product visibility aids in on-line fill and placement verification. Lower-cost packaging materials benefit everyone in the supply stream, as do sustainable options.
MPMN: How have green initiatives and the push for sustainability impacted medical packaging?
Dodrill: Sustainability concerns with regard to packaging have been largely driven by the medical device manufacturers. Approaches to improve sustainability include moving from double packaging to single packaging; double packaging consists of an inner package intended for the sterile field that provides a sterile barrier placed inside an outer package also capable of maintaining a sterile barrier. Additional efforts include reducing package density by moving from rigid to flexible materials, downgauging materials, and choosing materials that can be more-easily recycled. Hospitals are just beginning their sustainability journey. Amazingly, most do not yet have systems in place to recycle waste. However, encouraged by groups such as Kaiser Permanente, progress is being made.
MPMN: What do you see as being the next trends in medical packaging?
Dodrill: Packaging professionals are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of considering human factors when designing a product; good design can reduce the chance of errors. So, packages should be intuitive and easy to open, even when wearing gloves. Valuable time is lost when a nurse struggles to open a package. The packaged product should also be easy to identify. A label that meets the regulatory requirements of multiple countries often is visually overwhelming for the nurse. As a result, in-line, on-demand printing will continue to grow. Serialization and the associated identification, labeling, and tracking systems will also be a challenge that the medical industry will need to address.
MPMN: What do you hope attendees will take away from your presentation?
Dodrill: Hopefully, attendees will leave with some new ideas on how to address their packaging challenges and thoughts on design considerations.
For more information on the 2012 MD&M West Conference, visit www.mdmwestconference.com.