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Pharmaceutical Packaging What's New in Pharma Packaging Machines

| Author / Editor: Ahlam Rais* / Ahlam Rais

Pharmaceutical packaging between flexibility and turn key approaches —  This pharmaceutical packaging market is growing rapidly and pharma machinery manufacturers are leaving no stone unturned to explore the many dimensions of this critical sector. A ramble through this year's novelties.

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The packaging industry for pharmaceuticals is evolving and machinery manufacturers are now incorporating the latest technological concepts into their solutions in order to offer better and superior quality packaging.
The packaging industry for pharmaceuticals is evolving and machinery manufacturers are now incorporating the latest technological concepts into their solutions in order to offer better and superior quality packaging.
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The deadly Coronavirus has led the entire global pharmaceutical industry to work tirelessly in order to develop a cure for this pandemic. Testing of potential vaccines and collaboration of research papers between different countries have already begun in a desperate attempt to get the situation under control. This shows how important the pharmaceutical industry is in times like these.

Supporting this vital sector is the pharma packaging industry which follows stringent regulations and offers specialised and cutting-edge technologies. According to market research firm Mordor Intelligence, the pharmaceutical packaging market was valued at 73.49 billion dollars in 2019 and is expected to reach a value of 118.01 billion dollars by 2025 at a CAGR of 8.24 %.

In this background, pharma packaging machinery manufacturers across the globe are constantly working on new innovations in order to offer something new and more advanced than their competitors. One such company is the Marchesini Group.

The Italian based company has introduced the ultra-technological blister line which includes the Integra 520 V and the fast bundler FA 04. Boasting of delivering 520 blisters and 500 cartons per minute, the line is able to pack blisters into cartons and bundle them at high speed. The Integra 520 V integrates two machines — a thermoformer and a cartoner and is the fastest robotised integrated blister line ever created by the firm.

Equipped with features of its previous model — the Integra 320, the new line also comes with new pushers, a drum-type carton opener to deal with high speeds and a leaflet pick-and-place system. The blister line can be used for single-blister cartons and the blisters are inserted into the cartons by an ingenious product insertion unit, the MA 500. The company states that the MA 500 is designed to handle all kinds of carton closure: tuck-in or glued flap and various other combinations. The new fast bundler FA 04 is capable of handling a production flow of 500 cartons per minute, arranged in 50 bundles of ten cartons.

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The ACG Group is another heavy weight from this sector. The company has recently introduced the NXT Series, a comprehensive portfolio of pharmaceutical production, inspection and packaging equipment. The next-gen series comprises of machines ranging from tablet presses to blister and carton packing equipment to serialisation units for track and trace applications. The firm has labeled them as Protab 300 NXT, Protab 700 NXT, BMax NXT, KartonX NXT, and Veri­shield CS18 NXT.

With stunning elements such as the Ultra HMI, Stealth Design, Explore AR (Augmented Reality) and Reveali OT, the series offers many plus points to the industry. The Ultra HMI system requires minimal human-machine interaction and is capable of seamlessly controlling high-precision, contamination-free machines. A simplified operator experience, better data visualisation, and a decision dashboard are also provided to the user.

Small Footprint

Whereas, the Stealth Design element ensures that the machine is versatile and occupies a smaller footprint while delivering maximised output. According to the firm, the Explore AR element boosts process efficiency with the assistance of Augmented Reality. Process downtime is reduced; maintenance issues are identified and resolved quickly and enables the manufacturing process to function at an optimised pace. Some of the other features of this element include real-time monitoring, remote diagnosis and proactive service support, proactive maintenance and more realistic operator training.

Lastly, the Reveali OT element is the company’s IIOT platform which is responsible for inter-machine connectivity and smart manufacturing processes via easy-to-read dashboards detailing difficult to measure KPIs.

Perfect for Medium Batches

Perfect for medium batch sizes, Romaco Noack’s NBL 400 blister line boasts of an output of 400 blisters and up to 300 cartons per minute. The versatile and flexible line comprises a blister machine with rotary sealing and a continuous motion cartoner. The blister line is user-friendly and does not require special skills to operate it. In terms of configurations, tablets and capsules with different specifications can be placed in the blister cavities either individually or using a brush-box feeder.

Another advantage with this machine is that the products can be fed manually, this proves ideal for sample packs or very small or clinical batches. The durable line has the capacity to process any standard thermoformable laminate and also be used for manufacturing aluminium-aluminium blisters, opines the firm. The cavity geometries have been designed by Romaco’s software solution — Blister Magic. It is also utilised to develop individual packaging layouts. The company states that this innovative tool provides a very quick and easy route to customise blister packaging.

Multiuse Concept

Pharma machinery manufacturers are also adding new elements to their solutions. For instance, the German company Optima Packaging Group has introduced its turnkey project for pharmaceutical products which comprise of comprehensive processes for filling and closing, isolator technology and pharmaceutical freeze-drying. The firm’s Optima Multiuse system concept is exclusively designed for small to large batches of high-value, expensive drugs. With the assistance of robotics and cross-interface programming, the system offers maximum flexibility.

The company’s freeze drying systems can be incorporated in turnkey projects as well as single applications. The energy-efficient systems can be used for small to large batch sizes and its product portfolio covers the entire range from laboratory systems to large scale manufacturing plants.

The isolator technology by the firm’s subsidiary Metall+Plastic is also incorporated in the turnkey plants which makes it convenient to carry out the Decopulse decontamination process. The innovative process is capable of vaporising H2O2 at room temperature. According to the firm, with the combined benefits of both the isolator technology and the Decopulse decontamination process, extremely fine atomisation and particularly uniform distribution of H2O2 is made possible. The greatly reduced use of H2O2 leads to huge reductions in cycle times.

In Conclusion …

The packaging industry for pharmaceuticals is evolving and machinery manufacturers are now incorporating the latest technological concepts into their solutions in order to offer better and superior quality packaging. Also, with the rising awareness about the circular economy concept, companies have already started to challenge the base materials used in packaging with green alternatives. Hopefully, we will witness in the coming years that eco-friendly packaging for drugs will be commercial available around the world.

* * The author is an editor at PROCESS Worldwide. Contact: ahlam.rais@vogel.com

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