Pharmaceutical formulations can stretch the capabilities of packaging suppliers, but specialist companies are continuing to innovate to keep up with developments. Nessan Cleary reports
Drug delivery stems are becoming increasingly complex, with, for example, parenteral, skin patch and inhalation becoming more common methods of administration than was the case a few years ago. In general, the delivery mechanism for the medicine in question dictates the packaging, and manufacturers have responded to these challenges by designing new machinery, or re-working older designs to make them more flexible.
Uhlmann, for example, has a new blister packaging line, the Blister Express Centre 500 or BEC500, which it claims is the fastest single-lane packaging line in the world. It is made up of the B1550 blister machine, plus a multitab feeder and the C2504 cartoner. It can produce up to 500 packages/min and is aimed at packaging solids in batches of between 30,000 and 150,000 blisters.
Among its new features is a floating forming station which cuts out starting and stopping of the forming line. This is complemented by a new near-infrared film heating system for continuous and contact-free heating of the film prior to forming. It also boasts a new multitab feeder which can feed all types and shapes of solids, including those with varying thickness tolerances. The web moves at a speed of up to 20 metres/min and is kept consistently separated from the filling area. The single-lane operating mode of the line reduces the format parts to a minimum and automatic adjustments are made at the touch of a button, which reduces changeover times and potential errors.
There is also a new entry-level blister packaging machine, the B1240. This is suitable for tablets, coated tablets and capsules as well as ampoules, vials, cartridges, syringes and, when used with the Omnidose powder dosing machine, it can also cope with powder in line. It has a speed of 350 blisters/min and is computer aided to store format-related data for fast changeovers. It can form up to a depth of 24mm and uses a “soft-touch” system for gentle stretching of the lid material. It also offers pocket monitoring with light barrier prior to the sealing station and vapour extraction in the heating station.
Uhlmann has also updated its popular UPS-4 machine for high speed blister production. The latest version, the UPS-5, continues the modular concept. Every station can be separately removed from the machine frame for servicing or upgrading and variable extensions are possible at all times. It uses integrated servo technology to speed up the indexes and blister transfer. In addition, the heating station has been redesigned to include a new, specially developed coating on the heating plates, compatible with this new version.
The Optima Pharma Group specialises in making packaging machines for powders and liquids and has a number of different brands, including the Inova brand for sterile products, such as pre-filled syringes, Kugler for non-sterile pharmaceuticals and Klee for freeze-drying machines.
The latest Inova machine is the H8-16, a fully automatic syringe filling and closing machine which Optima claims is the fastest in its class, filling up to 800 syringes/min. Features include debagging, Tyvek lid and liner removal, filling, stopper placement and also in-process control using the latest weighing technology. These can be achieved using either isolator or restricted access barrier technology.
Inova also produces the VFVM range of fully automatic filling and closing machines. This starts with the VFVM 3000 for vials and infusion bottles, which is available with one or two filling heads, and top of the range is the VFVM 2400, a continuous motion filling and closing machine with between six and 14 lanes, which can output up to 24,000 containers/hr. It takes small and medium-sized vials and infusion bottles, which are fed into the vertical transport system via an infeed turntable and wheel. The containers themselves are filled by continuous motion filling needles. Up to 2.5% of the processed vials and bottles are weighed by the in-process control, and any adjustments are made automatically without slowing down the throughput.
Körber Medipak includes three companies, Rondo, Dividella and Mediseal, which between them cover most sectors in the pharmaceutical market. Rondo specialises in carton packaging and special applications such as hot foil and Braille embossing, and the use of holograms for security.
Körber Mediseal produces blister, sachet filling and cartoning machines and has just introduced a new stickpack machine, the LA560SP, capable of up to 1000 stick packs/min. It is built on a modular basis with dosaging modules available for various applications including creams, liquids, powders and granules. It takes a 560mm wide film which is fed into the back of the machine, and then split into 14 tracks by lengthwise cutters. There is also an option to add a tear-open strip to the packs.
In blister packaging, Körber Mediseal produces the CP range, which use a thermoform line, with a balcony construction and servo technology. There are several machines in the range outputting between 250 to 600 blisters/min. These can be matched up with Körber Mediseal’s cartoning machines for a complete line, capable of handling from 120 to 300 cartons/min.
Körber’s Dividella brand specialises in packaging for parenteral products such as syringes and blister wallet packs and among its products is the NeoWallet packaging machine. Wallet packs have a number of advantages, in that they allow for information on the tablets to be kept with the product and also allow groups of tablets to be packaged together. The NeoWallet machine can handle both single and multi-part wallets with up to four blister strips per wallet, plus leaflets and pack inserts, as well as producing box wallets. It can deliver up to 80 standard sized wallets or box wallets/min, or 240/min.
Last year Dividella launched the NeoTop 104 top loading machine, a semi-automated entry-level model. Top loading packs are said to be extremely cost-effective to produce and ideal for items such as syringes and vials as they give a clear view of the package contents, making it easier to remove them. In addition, it is possible to print on the inside of the lid, meaning that important information stays with the pack. The NeoTop 104 will handle a range of products, including ampoules, syringes, bottles, inhalers and nasal sprays. It can produce from 10 to 240 cartons/min, using printed or plain carton blanks, plus partition walls, all from flat die cut blanks.
Romaco used the recent Pharmintech show in Bologna to launch the Promatic PC4400 continuous motion cartoner. This is a 400 carton/min horizontal cartoner featuring the latest servo drive technology with logic control, which reduces the risk of breakdown and minimises maintenance requirements, while delivering easy programmable changeover without mechanical adjustments. A key feature is the carton opening system, which enables cartons to be opened every time, even if slightly out of shape or of inferior quality, preventing jams and therefore contributing to extended running times. It is also virtually silent in operation. Tailor-made feeding systems can accept blister packs, bottles, tubes, jars and vials.
Romaco also recently introduced the Noack N921 blister packaging machine, which has an Elau servo control for all main movements and the Noack “QuickFeed” system of interchangeable feeding units.
The Romaco line-up also includes the Macofar LVI liquid filler, which boasts a fill range of 0.5cc to 500cc and is capable of handling containers with diameters from 16 to 85mm and heights from 35 to 200mm.
Finally, Schoeller Arca Systems has produced a range of plastic pallets for storing and transporting pharmaceuticals. The company says the use of plastic overcomes hygiene problems associated with wooden pallets and metal containers and offers many advantages over traditional materials. It is immune to moisture, fat, acids, solvents and chemicals and is easy to clean using steam or pressure washing. Furthermore, plastic is light, yet strong and durable, and is easy to handle and recycle.
Schoeller Arca has also developed the Combo container, which is uniquely foldable and stackable, saving up to 60% space on return journeys, and therefore cutting transport costs.
Koerber Medipak: T: + 44(0) 1753 754865;
Optima: T: +44 (0)560 2588242:
Romaco: T: +44 (0)1480 435 050;
Schoeller Arca: T: + 44 (0) 1235 863800;
Uhlmann: T : +44 (0)1252 743133;
Uhlmann’s versatile entry-level blister packaging machine, the B1240, has a speed of 350 blisters/min The Innova VFVM 2400 stoppering station in action Inova’s top of the range VFVM 2400 continuous motion filling and closing machine can output up to 24,000 containers/hr. Dividella’s NeoTop 104 toploading machine is a semi-automated entry-level model A key feature of the Promatic PC4400 cartoner is the opening system, which enables cartons to be opened every time, even if slightly out of shape or of inferior quality, preventing jams