Meeting Cartoning and Labeling Demands

Line solutions address the growing complexity of secondary packaging.

By David Vaczek, Senior Editor
With the P 200 Casepacker, Serpa offers a fully servo-driven balcony-design unit engineered for easy operation and maintenance.

More-complex carton packaging as well as increased labeling requirements are spurring innovation by material converters and machinery manufacturers. As converters devise new formats for labeling, packagers have required advanced solutions to manufacture these formats efficiently.

Customers are placing more requirements on carton converters, such as to meet expanding labeling needs. Cartons are increasingly sought with preintegrated inserts, says Ernest Chaplin, vice president marketing and sales, Pharmagraphics. “The market is saying, ‘we don’t have the equipment to assemble all of this; let’s put it back on the converter,’ ” says Chaplin.

Pharmagraphics was purchased last year by The Clondalkin Group (Amsterdam, The Netherlands), be­coming part of the Clondalkin Specialist Packaging Division serving markets in North America and Europe. Clondalkin also purchased Keller Crescent (Evansville, IN) in June, adding additional capacity in carton, label, and insert production.

Pharmagraphics is offering the InfoSert 2.0 carton for handling the growing patient and professional labeling requirements that are forcing suppliers to determine how best to provide large amounts of information, now known in the industry as “large-format inserts.” The InfoSert 2.0 carton design employs a fifth panel with a die-cut window, where the package insert can be viewed from the exterior of the carton package. Pharmagraphics uses adhesive to affix inserts that carry upwards of 450 sq in. of copy space. The design accommodates inserts larger than Pharmagraphics’ standard Info­Sert, which carries inserts fixed inside the carton.

InfoSert 2.0 was developed for ethical drug products requiring both patient and physician information. It is suitable for customers already using a carton. It may offer a lower-cost approach for customers using bottles that convert to cartons to accommodate expanded labeling requirements, says Chaplin.

Carton packaging enables the use of standard fold styles at lower per-piece costs, produced on folders that are widely available and capable of producing a variety of cost-effective styles, he says.

“If you are folding a 10 × 26-in. insert down to a 1 × 2 in. size for fixing to a 45-cm3 bottle, you are maxing out any folding machine on the planet. Using a folding carton, patient and professional labeling can be folded as separate pieces to reasonable sizes and presented better to the user,” Chaplin says.

Fleet Laboratories recently expanded its use of InfoSerts for its product line, sourcing the cartons with integrated inserts from Pharmagraphics. “Fleet was using InfoSerts for a small percentage of one of its products. And now the company has moved to 100% to improve patient compliance,” says Chaplin.

Package complexity provides converters with an opportunity to add value. Diamond Contract Manufacturing (DCM), a division of Diamond Packaging (Rochester, NY), partnered with ACM Medical Laboratory, a New York–based clinical trials laboratory to develop a diagnostic specimen kit. The ACM KitKaddy organizes the components of a clinical trial, making it easy for physicians to pull the correct materials and maintain trial protocol integrity, says Jason Aymerich, sales manager, Diamond Contract Manufacturing.

DCM produces, assembles, and distributes the kits to ACM Medical Laboratory clinical trial investigator sites. The packager manages reordering and restocking, procuring tubes and other components used in the collection of diagnostic specimens.

Pharmagraphics’ InfoSert 2.0 employs a fifth panel with a die-cut window for holding large-format inserts.

Kits were previously assembled and distributed by ACM’s own kit-building division. “We incorporated a unique multiple-ply single-part 95-kPa pressure vessel, compliant with IATA 650 packaging requirements for the shipment of diagnostic specimens. This was a cost-effective solution that, besides simplifying the collection process, reduced kit components to a space-saving design and size,” Aymerich adds.

Chaplin says that more-complex cartons with multiple die-cuts and internal partitions and shelving are required in sectors such as the diagnostic test industry. “We are searching out these applications because that is where value is derived. We have added several new clients requiring enhanced carton functionality for the end-user,” Chaplin says.

Pharmagraphics’ customers are also looking for support for track-and-trace programs. The company has provided unique carton coatings to support GS1 DataBar (formerly Reduced Space Symbology) code and two-dimensional bar code printing by customers that are working on developing track-and-trace technologies with the use of in-line serialized bar codes.

But some have turned to the supplier for the secondary package coding. “Customers don’t want to add an extra in-line printer to their packaging lines. We are in test evaluation with the market, where a data bank of numbers and codes for printing of random serialized bar codes are made available to us for printing in-line during our production,” he says.


Packaging line efficiency is ad­dressed by machine functionality and line configuration. Diamond has added new multiple-component feeding machines from Multifeeder Technology. The portable, self-contained friction feeders integrate with Diamond Packaging’s existing gluers, says Dennis Bacchetta, marketing manager, Diamond Packaging.

“The Multifeeder machines provide the most up-to-date technology for glue, fold, and feed in one operation. Onboard computer monitoring supports accurate product count and misfeed detection. The machines reach speeds of up to 12,000 units per hour, with the ability to randomly feed up to every fifth item,” says Bacchetta.

Diamond utilizes two Multifeeder models, each configured for separate processes: one for fold-over cards and the other for packets and sachets. The units dispense products such as pharmaceutical inserts, booklets, labels, samples, and coupons onto a vacuum conveyor where hot-melt adhesive is applied to combine products under a pressure roller.


Servo control provides faster carton speeds and changeover times in horizontal cartoners offered by ESS Technologies (Blacksburg, VA). The servo-driven AS-series cartoners made by Bergami (Bologna, Italy) and distributed by ESS support 15- to 20-minute changeover, when all carton dimensions change. Using digital indicators, operators can quickly reproduce setting adjustments to enable immediate, quality production.

“Our customers needed to maximize overall equipment effectiveness (OEE),” says Walter Langosch, director of sales and marketing, ESS Technologies. “Machines with mechanical control may take longer to change over, reducing OEE and productivity. However, the speed of changeover is not as important as the repeatability of the changeover. Manual adjustments without proper measurement components may require additional tweaking after the changeover before quality production may be possible. The digital display pertains to the size of the carton in millimeters and adjusts back exactly to where you were when you last ran the same size,” Langosch says.

Modules can be added to Paragon Labeling’s PLS 400 series of printer-label applicators to move from label apply, to print and apply, and on to print, inlay encode, verify, and apply functions.

The AS series consists of six models designed to handle small- to medium-sized cartons used in the pharmaceutical industry. Several of these models are mechanical and others are servo driven. The best machine for the application is chosen based on the required speed, the complexity of the application, and the number and frequency of changeovers. ESS is also offering the Bergami Model C 97 automatic horizontal case packer as part of a full line of packaging machinery. The cartoners and case packer feature “extremely compact” footprints for flexibility in package line configuration, says Langosch.

Cartoners range from mechanical control units supporting speeds of 80 cartons per minute and higher and to full servo control. The servo-based AS 350 produces cartons at a rate of 250 per minute.
Langosch notes that the speed of ancillary equipment often dictates the choice of a cartoner. Up-enders, stackers, and product-feeding systems have to be geared to move as fast as the cartoning track, for example. “The skill levels of the people maintaining the line is another consideration. If you are contemplating a new line or up­grading a line for higher speed, the AS-series models with full servo control may offer the best solution as long as the personnel are well versed in the operation of servo controls,” he says. ESS offers customized training programs for operators and maintenance personal at ESS or customer facilities.

Customers accommodating more package styles on a line will favor servo-based cartoners for their changeover flexibility. “Servos are not worth the money if a customer is running a line dedicated to one package. Customers with less-extensive changeover needs can use stepper motors to automate reconfiguration at a reduced cost compared with a servo solution,” Langosch says.

The AS-series cartoners feature a patented phase-adjustable belting system that handles different carton sizes with minimal machine adjustment. Two sets of plastic belts with teeth for gripping the leading edge and trailing edge of the carton adjust to handle cartons of various lengths, for careful handling of fragile or high-gloss cartons.

Kevin Browne, president of ESS Technologies, says that pharma customers favor standard validatable servo drives, motors, and control software, provided by firms such as Rockwell Automation (Milwaukee), which provides Allen-Bradley, and Elau (Schaumburg, IL). “Custom servo drives and programming with proprie­tary software is difficult to validate,” says Browne.


“Servo drives tend to be more reliable and more repeatable, and they require less maintenance than mechanical control systems. This supports higher OEE at pharma companies where line efficiency is challenged by factors such as calibration of line instruments and FDA requirements for line clearance between batches,” Browne says.

ESS integrates robotic solutions using Fanuc robots, such as with its seven-axis servo-driven V 30 case packer. “Servo­controlled robotics is the best solution if you are looking to decrease maintenance and downtime. The mean time between failures on our robot servos running 24/7 is six and half years. That is a huge improvement over mechanical systems,” Browne says.

MGS Machine Corp. (Maple Grove, MN) is debuting a Gen 4 wallet machine with full servo control that is almost twice as fast as earlier models. Quick change tool sets and electronic control with recipe recall are among its features. Insert feeders are manually adjustable on a leadscrew, which simplifies insert feeder movement for placing inserts on different card panels and card sizes, says Kevin Kennedy, senior regional sales manager.

With the Eclipse intermittent motion cartoner, MGS offers a small-footprint unit with a walk-in-style design that supports 90-carton-per-minute speeds. Servos drive the carton flight chain and the infeed bucket. Stepper motors drive the carton-load pusher and carton-flap closing. The unit features positive opening: two stepper motor-driven vacuum arms hold the carton open on both sides for erecting.
Standardized in-feed modules handle a full scope of primary packaging and inserts. Drop-in-style tooling avoids the need for tool adjustment after tool installation. “We preset and test dedicated sets of tooling for different carton sizes, which make the tool change fast and repeatable,” he says.

The P120 Vertical Cartoner from Serpa Packaging Solutions (Visalia, CA) features positive carton prebreak for opening stubborn cartons. Dual suction pulls the carton slightly open to prepare the carton for erecting in the flight lugs that carry the carton through the machine. “Serpa cartoners for intermittent and continuous-motion operation support rapid changeover, using digital dials and scales with pointers for adjusting to different carton sizes,” says Rich James, director of marketing.

“Cartoners are engineered to reduce the number of changeover points for handling a variety of carton styles, including fifth-panel cartons. We typically integrate leaflet feeders, deboss decoders, ink-jet printers, and vision systems. Mechanical adjustment is often preferred, but we offer fully automatic servo changeover on all machines,” James says.

Langosch notes that cartoner performance does not fully address OEE. Downtime may be affected by the quality of the packaging materials. It is also important that the correct glue is chosen for the application and is within specifications.


For on-demand print-and-apply labeling, Paragon Labeling Systems (White Bear Lake, MN) provides the Sato S 84 print engine in its PLS 320 model, for higher resolution and higher-speed printing. The unit prints cartons and cases at up to 16 in./sec, at a resolution of up to 600 dpi. A ribbon cartridge is offered as an op­tion for quick ribbon replacement, says Carl Smith, regional sales manager, Paragon Labeling.

Paragon is meeting demand for RFID labels with the PLS 400 series. The series offers a migration path with modules for RFID tag apply, print and apply, and print, encode, and apply.

“Pharma companies tend to favor labels for black-on-white printing to achieve an ANSI A rating. Labels maintain print resolution in wraparound labeling, where if you are printing directly onto the carton, you would get a C rating, and you have to turn the box,” says Kenneth Darrow, president. Dartronics Inc. (Perth Amboy, NJ), a distributor of Paragon labelers and printers from Hitachi and HSA/USA.
For managing label design or direct-to-carton printing, HSA/USA has debuted the CT-Touch controller, running Windows-based label design software. The industrial PC can be mated with Paragon labelers or printers from Hitachi, Sato, or other suppliers,” says Darrow.

Weber Marking Systems (Arlington Heights, IL) provides a selection of pressure-sensitive label applications, including air blow, tamp blow, corner wrap, and “twin tamp” (i.e., two-label, adjacent-panel labeling) with its new Model 5300 label printer-applicator. Optional RFID models combine printing with RFID inlay coding and verification.

Along with the labeling versatility, the unit addresses downtime and changeovers with a rewind system that automatically adjusts to the amount of liner on the take up reel and a one-to-one relationship between label supply, liner rewind, and ribbon usage.

A key advance over previous models is enhanced thruster technology for the pneumatic actuation of the stroke arm applying the label. “We learned that increasing product throughput was very important to our customers, so we made it a priority in the design of the new system,” says Ann Marie Phaneuf, marketing director.


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