Bottle Packaging with Impact
As cap advances promote consumer use, multilayer bottles target shelf life and safety.
By David Vaczek
Trends in consumer and institutional healthcare settings are demanding more from closures and containers. Consumer research has shown that caps with appealing design and function provide an edge for drug and healthcare products at the store shelf. Bottle-making technology is keeping pace with new materials for adding improvements such as drop impact resistance, barrier, and bio-compatibility.
In closures, flip-tops have emerged as solutions that require minimal application force for opening and closing, without the need to twist or turn the caps or align arrows. Bouchons MAC Closures (Waterloo, Quebec) offers child resistance (CR) in a flip-top system with its FTCR 19500 series.
MAC Closures is launching a line of non-CR flip-top, wide-mouth closures with a distinctive flat-top design and a convenient thumb notch opening feature. The top features a slight radius, creating a dome effect that will foster shelf presence and branding, says Lisa Marie Decelles, marketing and product manager.
“This new line will support companies looking for improved design and graphics to support their OTC marketing,” Decelles says. “It addresses one of the main drivers in consumer preference: easy opening and closing. The closures are lightweight, reflecting our new environment-friendly design approach to take out as much unnecessary material as possible.”
Users of standard continuous thread (CT) bottles can run the 400 finish CT caps on their existing lines. Commercial quantity production of a 38-mm cap starts in March, with 45- and 53-mm sizes coming out in April, Decelles says. She says that a major drug firm has opted to use MAC Closures’s FTCR 19500 series for one of the drug firm’s leading solid dose applications.
“This innovative child-resistant solution offers higher convenience to consumers while addressing product integrity and security issues,” Decelles says. “Consumer response in focus groups was very positive, and highlighted additional features such as its handy pocket size and its reusability.”
The flip-top concept does not depend on torque and allows an objective determination, visibly and audibly, that the package has returned to its CR state.
“One of the most interesting applications for this pack is for prescription drugs,” Decelles adds. “The ease of use becomes added value to the pharmacist as it has the potential of reducing the risk of repetitive motion injuries associated with the classic push-and-turn products.”
Weatherchem Corp. (Twinsburg, OH) has launched a flip-top cap—the LiquiFlapper closure system—that features controlled directional flow in liquid dispensing. A large thumb tab indent allows opening, which, along with closing, is accompanied by audible clicks. The closure contains flap retention technology allowing easy opening while providing high confidence that the flap is retained on the closure base during transport and capping operations, says Anna Frolova-Levi, director of marketing.
The 38-mm cap is offered in two standard finish sizes (33-400 and 38-400) with a standard thread for fitting to a multitude of plastic and glass bottles.
“Our focus group research has shown that consumers assign premium quality to dispensing cap systems,” says Frolova-Levi. “They appreciate the flip top caps’ easy open and close features. The LiquiFlapper adds value to packaging of fast-acting liquid vitamins and antacids by avoiding waste and mess as product is dispensed.”
SABIC Innovative Plastics (Pittsfield, MA), formerly GE Plastics, has developed in-house co-injection blow-molding capacity for supporting development of vial and bottle solutions using its Lexan HP family of polycarbonate resins.
“The industry is at a juncture where it is investigating alternatives to mono-layer plastics and glass for pharmaceuticals and in-vitro diagnostics packages and containers,” says Clare Fissora, market director, healthcare, SABIC Innovative Plastics. “Co-injection blow-molding is new for many of our healthcare customers. We can now help them evaluate our Lexan HP resins and transition to new applications that support patient and caregiver safety.”
Barrier plastics are incorporated as the core layer of bottles employing high impact-
resistant Lexan HP resins from SABIC Inovative Plastics, featured here and on page 30.
In the co-injection blow-molding process, Lexan HP resins jacket a core layer in a three-layer structure. Lexan HP resins provide enhanced clarity, autoclavability, and high impact resistance, while supporting a range of performance capabilities to meet different container requirements, such as food contact or biocompatibility. Additionally, SABIC Innovative Plastics offers a Lexan HPM resin family that addresses protein binding to surfaces. “Our testing to date has shown reduced binding of proteins, such as fibrinogen and albumin,” says Fissora.
Plastics such as cyclo-olefins and amorphous nylons are incorporated as core layers to provide moisture and oxygen barriers to achieve shelf life requirements for the package or container.
Fissora says that plastic containers are meeting requirements for breakage reduction and sterilization, while maintaining clarity for viewing of contents. New solutions for unit dose packaging offer convenience and error reduction in diagnostic procedures and drug delivery.
Rexam has employed co-injection blow molding and Lexan HP resins with its proprietary MLx technology for plastic bottles used in healthcare.
SABIC Innovative Plastics’s installation features a Uniloy Milcorn UMIB 85 injection blow molder, with tooling provided by the Abramo division of Big 3 Precision Products. Kortec provides the co-injection equipment and systems integration of the co-injection and injection blow-mold technologies.
“The system supports a high degree of processing latitude for running co-injection applications, and also offers the capability for monolayer bottles comprised of a variety of SABIC Innovation Plastics polymer families, such as high-heat Lexan HPH and Ultem HU polyeitherimide resin,” says John Davis, technical manager, healthcare, SABIC Innovation Plastics.
A new line of flip-top closures from MAC Closures features a distinctive flat top with a slight dome.
New solutions for unit dose packaging offer convenience and error reduction in diagnostic procedures and drug delivery.
Enhanced control over the distribution and thickness of the core and skin layers along the length of the container promotes maintenance of container properties such as impact strength, as well as latitude for container design. Controls eliminate voids in the core material at the gate, where the molten resin enters the injection mold for parison forming, Davis says.
With industry assessing alternatives for meeting California’s electronic pedigree requirement, bottles with embedded chips provide an option for RFID tagging at the item level.
Alcan Pharmaceutical Packaging—Plastics Americas (Pennsauken, NJ) is promoting an in-mold security label with RFID solution using Tagsys tags. The security film can be placed on the bottle surface, shoulder, bottom, sidewall or on the closure without mold modification or production cycle changes, says Larry Blake, director, marketing.
“We have the ability to use all commercial tags, as the in-mold film does not discriminate between frequencies. We have produced production level samples with commercial tools and are proceeding with a true line trial at our contract packaging facility,” Blake says.
Rexam Primary Packaging (Perrysburg, OH) is offering a phased-in approach to item-level RFID tagging that uses Rexam bottles with RF inlays embedded into the bases. The solution avoids the need to retrofit lines with printer-encoder stations for coding RF tags. Packagers use their legacy label and printing systems, and bottles are encoded off the line at a later stage.
Announced at the recent National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) and Healthcare Distribution Management Association (HDMA) RFID Summit, the solution provides a bridge to RFID tagging for companies using 2-D Data Matrix codes for item serialization, says Brian Chisholm, development engineer, R&D group, Rexam.
“We are taking all the RFID integration downstream from the labeler. The beauty of the embedded solution is that the bottle doesn’t change. Many companies will already be using our bottles,” Chisholm says.
A packager replaces its bottles with Rexam’s chip-embedded bottles. After the bottles are labeled with standard labels and printed with serialized 2-D codes, they are side-transferred off-line to a roll up conveyor, where a CI Vision system captures and decodes the 2-D data. The decoded EPC data string is sent to an Impinj Speedway reader and antenna, developed specifically for the application, that encodes and locks the data to the bottle tag “on the fly.” Tags are verified, accepted or rejected, and the coded bottles are returned to the line.
SABIC Innovative Plastics will help customers develop plastic bottle applications with its new in-house co-injection blow-molding system.
Taking a phased-in approach to serialization, firms could start with Data Matrix, then retain the printed code as backup while starting with RF tagging. Once the reliability of the tags is established, they could then choose to run “straight RFID, with very little trauma and expense,” Chisholm says.
“[The conveyor solution] can be implemented at a fraction of the cost of integrating an RFID label-based solution on the packaging line,” he adds.
Highlighting the advantages of “smart packages,” Rexam (then O-I) demonstrated its embedded tag solution employing Impinj near-field ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) Gen 2 tags and readers at an industry event last year.
Advantages over labels with embedded RF inlays include that inlays are more consistently oriented on a line, supporting reliable performance. Chisholm says that firms incur higher losses when labels are rendered obsolete, with smart labels costing 10 to 15 times that of standard labels. With embedded bottles, the inlay stays with the bottle as the label requirement changes. Bottle inlays offer advantages in management of “white stock,” or filled but unlabeled product that is warehoused. Reference numbers or EPCs can be encoded to the bottles for confirming product identification.
Rexam is commissioning its first manufacturing cell for production of RF-embedded containers at a Toledo facility. Rexam will encode and lock EPCs into tags at the plant, or customers can encode the tags, Chisholm says.