Market Scenario Two Major Trends in the Pharma Packaging Industry
The pharma packaging industry is increasingly adopting robotic lines to enhance packaging efficiency and maintain consistency in order to remain competitive in the market. The industry is also looking to become sustainable by exploring the use of eco-friendly packaging materials in its machines.
Pharmaceutical packaging has undergone numerous transitions in the past decades and will continue to transform with changing times, especially now with the emergence of the Covid pandemic and the increased focus on sustainability and digitalization. In terms of market size, the global pharmaceutical packaging market estimated at 98.2 billion dollars in the year 2020, is projected to reach a revised size of 161.6 billion dollars by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 8.4 % over the analysis period, states a report by market research firm Research and Markets. It further adds that the demand drivers for this scenario will be increased healthcare awareness, new drug approvals, rising healthcare spending, buoyant market for biopharmaceuticals and generics as well as regulations focusing on tracing and serialization of products.
Now trending in the pharma packaging industry
Sustainability:Sustainable packaging materials are being developed in partnership with pharma packaging machine suppliers. For instance, Bosch’s Syntegon, one of the leading global process and packaging technology providers, collaborated with the Finnish packaging material manufacturer Huhtamaki to develop a sustainable paper alternative to plastic blisters for tablets and capsules. Matthias Klauser, Sustainability Expert at Syntegon states in a release, “Thanks to the combination of our TPU 1000 form, fill and seal machine for paper packaging; the 3D formable Fibreform paper from Billerud Korsnäs; and the sealable barrier coating from Huhtamaki, we have succeeded in forming paper with the geometry required for tablets in cavities of three to four millimeters.”
The pharmaceutical industry has always required the highest quality standards for packaging materials. Francesco Stanzani, Commercial Director, Marchesini Group mentions, “Ensuring product safety is crucial in the pharmaceutical sector, so a great deal of attention is paid to this issue and there are many adjustments and specifications that must be adopted in order to handle and package drugs.”
The Marchesini Group which produces a wide range of packaging machines and lines for the pharmaceutical sector has also been involved in researching and developing new eco-friendly solutions to meet their customers’ demands. “The market is currently looking for alternatives to plastic, which is why we have had great success with our solutions such as the MA 80 cartoner, which is designed to place products in paper trays, as well as the FB220 thermoforming machine with eco-friendly materials such as Polylactide (PLA),” shares Stanzani.
The automatic machine manufacturer for the processing and packaging of pharmaceuticals, Ima is also promoting eco-friendly plastic substitutes for the packages manufactured on its machines. An example of this is Ima Safe’s ‘Paper tray packaging line’ which packages a wide range of parenteral products and medical devices on paper trays inside cartons, creating 100 % paper-based packaging which is easy to recycle, has relatively low energy requirements and is biodegradable.
Sustainability can also be applied to the manufacturing process. Thomas Fricke, Commercial Director of Ima Pharma, Ima Group adds, “There have been significant movements in containment technology for capsule filling which reduces the use of disposables – often in plastic – and of water, thus generating significant energy savings and economic benefits.”
Robotics: The demand for robotics, collaborative robots (cobots) is steadily increasing in the pharma packaging industry. Increased efficiency, boosting productivity, scalability, increased speed, compact and portable are just some of the many advantages of these solutions. A report by market intelligence firm Beroe highlights that large as well as small businesses adopt robotics and autonomous mobile robot technology to ensure high quality, to stay competitive in the market, to maintain consistency in their packaging and to do away with labour shortage problems.
The use of robotic solutions in all the areas of packaging is a continuous trend. “In the past, these systems were often used for lifting heavy items and they used to work in dangerous areas. Nowadays, robots can be found everywhere because of their flexibility for different products and formats, like for instance the loading of products and packaging material on the lines, the pick and place of products into the packaging as well as for labelling and assembling too,” mentions Fricke. Highly accurate, robots can carry out tedious tasks and can operate around the clock.
Gerhard Schubert, a developer of modular packaging machines for the pharmaceutical industry has introduced its flexible, robot-based top-loading packaging technology (TLM). Utilizing simple mechanics, intelligent control technology and high modularity, the technology can also integrate into the packaging machines diverse additional functions such as labelling, inserting instructions for use or prescribed quality controls. The modular machines by the firm can package pharmaceutical products of all kinds in a wide variety of dosage forms.
Apart from this, the Marchesini Group’s Integra 720V is an integrated, robotic line for packaging blisters in cartons, and characterized by very high speeds. The compact multilane blister line comprises two sections: a blister packaging machine which forms the blisters and places the products for packaging in their cavities, and a cartoning machine which packages the blister in its carton. The two sections are connected by Robocombi, a three-axis robot fully integrated in the line and created entirely by the firm’s R&D departments. This solution is able to produce up to 720 blisters and up to 500 cartons/minute, delivers easy cleaning and size change since the product loading area is separated from the electrical and mechanical parts.
What’s new in the market?
MG2, a manufacturer of processing & packaging machines for the pharmaceutical industry in Italy, has unveiled a blistering machine which aims to optimize the primary packaging of capsules and tablets in blisters. Called ‘Blistar blistering machine’, the solution has the capacity to manage up to 150 blisters/minute with maximum dimensions of 90×140 mm which bodes well for pharmaceutical companies that want to produce R&D batches. Equipped with a touch screen panel, the solution offers an insight into the visualization of the machine status in real time. The system is also able to detect the presence of any product outside the cavity before sealing.
Optima Packaging, the Germany based company specializing in producing automatic machines for the packaging of pharmaceuticals, has launched the Multiuse System, a new concept that offers flexibility and efficiency to fill highly specialized and expensive products in different delivery formats such as vials, syringes and cartridges. The system is equipped to provide quick and easy format changeovers which proves beneficial for pharmaceutical companies intending to meet new market requirements. Different types of technologies have been incorporated into the system which leads to high product yields while maximizing cost efficiencies. These concepts include re-dosing, re-stoppering and re-capping functions, while maintaining 100 % weight control.
Ima has also introduced its next-generation complete robotic packaging line Tritone. With close to zero manual operations, including fully automated changeover, the solution offers numerous benefits to pharmaceutical companies such as lesser space utilization, lower operating costs or improved production output and downtime reduction, just to name a few. This technology can also be used in an environment, where it is necessary to eliminate human interaction. In its sterile filling line Injecta, robots are partially changing over the machine to avoid two things, damage to the product and danger to the operator.
Syntegon’s Flexible Filling Platform is a modular and innovative platform for filling RTU and bulk containers. Capable of handling different types of containers such as vials, syringes and cartridges, the solution can be quickly adapted as per the different needs of the company. The filling platform has an output up to 3,600 containers/h and offers a 100 % in-process check weighing. Boasting of a no glass-to-glass contact, the platform is flexible from the beginning and can be expandable.
* The author is a freelance editor at PROCESS Worldwide. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org