Hybrid Printing

Systems for pharmaceutical and medical package printing blend traditional and novel technologies to achieve variability, quality, and cost-efficiency.

Hapa AG (Zurich, Switzerland) is suggesting the use of just-in-time inline printing of pharmaceutical and medical device packaging. Drop-on-demand (DOD) ink-jet and flexo/digital hybrid printers are designed to deliver quality printing coupled with operational efficiency across many packaging formats and materials.

The Hapa Hybrid 200/700 UV flexo/digital printer can help users apply unique codes cost-effectively.

In addition, worldwide regulatory interest in sequential numbering and unit-dose coding can be supported by digital systems, reports Hapa.

At the same time, pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers are looking for efficient systems that help them innovate without having to invest significantly high capital.

“Hapa’s primary focus is on full package printing, not just variable data,” explains Steve DiAngelis, director of Hapa, North America (Rockaway, NJ). “Our print systems are developed to print at the highest print quality, allowing us to print the entire package in multiple colors as well as variable data on each package.”

DiAngelis says using “hybrids of different printing technologies allows the end-user to gain the cost savings and flexibility of the different areas of the package that are printed. For example, in most cases, it is less expensive for the end-user to print product-related information, which repeats every cycle, with flexotechnology, which also provides the best online printing quality. Variable information [can be printed] with noncontact digital printing technology. This provides the best of both worlds for the customer.” He adds that Hapa has had requests to serialize and bar code down to the blister tablet.

Adds Hapa’s commercial director Christoph Staub: “Over the past 12 months, we’ve experienced a surge in demand for hybrid solutions. Just-in-time printing has evolved from a niche activity to a mainstream function in pharmaceutical packaging: as the technology has matured, the efficiencies and cost savings afforded by online printing have been embraced by an ever-larger community.”

Interest in traceability along with a shift toward reducing inventory is generating demand for late-stage customization via digital printing, adds Staub.

At Pack Expo International, Hapa displayed a hybrid digital/flexo printer planned for installation on a medical device packaging line. The system features Hapa’s 200-series UV flexoprinter for printing the relevant background for each product as well as Hapa’s 700-series digital printer for handling product-specific variable data like text, bar codes, graphics, and logos. The system replaces an existing thermal-transfer printer.

Other systems from Hapa include the new Easyflex for inline printing of blister foils. Hapa developed the system to help pharmaceutical companies achieve efficiency and environmental friendliness. Easyflex can be installed on all small- and mid-sized blister machines. A format-free universal print cylinder can be used for every project.

Also, the Hapa 800 LabelJet UV DOD ink-jet system produces high-quality print at up to 720 dpi given drop placement. It can print at full label web width.

DiAngelis says that with changes in printing requirements occurring to handle track-and-trace initiatives, companies “are taking the opportunity of change to explore full packaging component printing, giving the additional benefits of packaging component cost savings, reduced logistics, and warehousing as well as elimination of packaging component waste and obsolescence.”

Recent projects for DiAngelis have involved demonstrating quality and flexibility along with lowering the total cost of ownership over the life of the product. ■

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