Developing a Winning Design

A juror for the 2000 Medical Design Excellence Awards sketches the features of a successful package design.

In a little more than a month, consultant Donald Barcan, president of Donbar Industries Inc. (Long Valley, NJ), will join nine other jurors in judging the submissions for the 2000 Medical Design Excellence Awards (MDEA). During an interview with senior editor Erik Swain, Barcan discusses how to design a successful medical package.

Q: What, in your opinion, is the definition of a successful package design?

A: A successful package design maintains the sterile integrity of the product and protects it during manufacturing, processing, distribution, and storage. It is also compatible with existing processing equipment, provides the required opening features, has the correct graphic information, and is attractive, functional, and cost-effective.

Q: What are the most important things to consider during package design?

A: Package design begins with gathering input criteria. The process involves collecting information on marketing requirements such as desired packaging concepts, timing, and sales forecast, as well as on product manufacturing location and available packaging and processing equipment. If either new equipment or a new packaging concept is required, package designers must determine the budget and schedule. They also must find out what sterilization process is desired. Next, consideration must be given to the manufacturability of the package.

Donald Barcan, president, Donbar Industries Inc.

Q: What are the most common mistakes made in designing a package?

A: One of the most common mistakes is not having enough time to do the project correctly, but plenty of time to do it again. Typical mistakes are:


  • Incorrect labeling.
  • Insufficient strength of the materials to adequately contain the product.
  • Inadequately sealed packages, which can affect package integrity.
  • Insufficiency or lack of aging studies, which can result in long-term failures.
  • Incorrect or inadequate aseptic presentation of package contents.
  • Misunderstanding of the distribution environment.
  • Incorrect secondary package design.

Q: Whose input should be sought during design?

A: Information concerning the package and device should come from the research and development and marketing departments. The package designers must visit the production sites for the device and package in order to understand the complete operation of existing equipment. They must talk with the production and quality departments, and they must talk with the purchasing department to get a list of approved material suppliers.

Q: Should package design be integrated with product design? How so?

A: Absolutely yes. History is replete with examples of how packaging engineers were called in to design the package after the product design was completed. Unfortunately, there have been too many examples of devices that turned out to be extremely fragile and required expensive primary and secondary packaging, which might have been unnecessary if device fragility had been corrected during product design. In one recent example, a device had an injection-molded part with excess flashing at the gate. This part came in contact with the walls of the package. After a minimal amount of vibration, the flashing punctured the walls of the sterile barrier. Thousands of parts were produced and could not be scrapped. Additional manufacturing steps were required to smooth the surface, and the package was redesigned. All of these steps would have been unnecessary if the part had been designed properly in the beginning.


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