Plumbing Depths In Rigid Trays

Structures address performance and cost, as designers focus on efficient assembly and end use.
As film manufacturers introduce alternative materials and structures for rigid trays, thermoformers are focusing on end-user preferences for simplified packaging.
Materials and structures that are durable, clear, free of cosmetic defects, and flexibly thermoformed are addressing OEM requirements for high performance and cost effective solutions. Suppliers report growing interest in sustainable materials, and packaging systems that reduce packaging components and manufacturing complexity.
ABRASION RESISTANCE
Perfecseal (www.perfecseal.com) is developing an innovative PU/PETG material with the goal of making packaging easier to handle at the point of use. As the contact layer in a rigid packaging system, the polyurethane provides cut and abrasion resistance.
The material responds to nurses’ preferences for simplified packaging, as it could replace inserts and sleeves used to retain and protect sharp and abrasive devices, says Joel Schmidt, senior marketing manager, Perfecseal.
“Nurses like packages to provide a simple, smooth product presentation and be free from excess packaging materials that create loose pieces and additional waste. We heard these concerns highlighted by the nurses’ Voice of Customer group at HealthPack this year,” Schmidt says.
“In working with this material, we are aiming to simplify the package. There are fewer components and less packaging, which makes the package easier to handle at the point of use, without extra pieces to dispose of and account for,” Schmidt says.
“It looks promising. We have done some initial internal evaluation and are at the point of developing some prototypes,” he adds.
Perfecseal has developed the Wire Coil Clamshell Barrier Packaging System for Arthrex (www.arthrex.com) for packaging suture passing wire used in surgery to pass sutures through ligaments, cartilage, and bone.
The thermoformed PETG three-sided clam shell allows for more efficient assembly, provides superior product protection, and supports a simpler manufacturing process, when compared with the previous tray.
The system eliminates the previous tray’s Tyvek lid and the heat sealing process, in which the lid was sealed before the assembler coiled the wire into the tray.
ADDRESSING ASSEMBLY AND COSTS
In designing the package, Perfecseal analyzed the use of the product throughout the supply chain—identifying opportunities to incorporate packaging features for package improvement and process efficiencies, says Schmidt.
In the tray’s assembly, a cover panel is folded over and snapped to the base panel creating a nearly enclosed wire channel. After the tail end of the wire is inserted within the channel through a narrow opening, the wire can be coiled or wrapped into the tray through a narrow slot opening around the diameter of the cover.
In the previous design, the wire was coiled into the tray as the assembler pushed the wire through a tray opening. The wire’s stiffness often caused snagging, which required the assembler to start over, Schmidt says.
The wire is held in the channel by the ribbed cover panel and the tension created by the wire’s stiffness as it presses against the channel’s outer wall. The looped head of the wire is then fed through a slot in the top of the cover panel, and the third panel is folded over and snapped in place to contain and protect the head of the wire. The nurse needs only to open the third panel using a thumb tab to access the wire’s head.
An ISTA distribution test performed by FedEx verified that the system’s integrity was maintained after shipping and handling.
The design simplifies tray manufacturing in which the three panels are first formed flat, and the trim occurs on a single plane as the top and bottom dies meet on one level. Also, the cover panel is designed with a peninsular cutout to avoid generating lose die-cut trim pieces.
The tray’s clear, blue-tinted PETG improves product visibility while providing material cost savings. Arthrex in addition has estimated substantial labor savings each year accruing from the tray’s more-efficient assembly process.
EARTH FRIENDLY
ALTERNATIVES
Placon (www.placon.com) has expanded capabilities in recycled PET (polyethylene terephthalate) with the opening this month of a 70,000 sq ft dedicated facility at its Madison campus for producing EcoStar RPET flake and rollstock. The company also manufactures thermoformed packaging, says Jennifer Mitchell, marketing communications manager.
“We are going to the original source at curb side recycling for post consumer bottles and thermoform, grinding, washing, and reprocessing to turn the material back into packaging again,” Mitchell says.
“Most of our product has been 50% post-consumer. Extruding roll stock with 100% post consumer product is our goal this year leveraging our capabilities at the new plant,” Mitchell adds.
OEMs have favored RPET for secondary packaging to support their own internal sustainability programs. Cartoning for ampules and vials, and in-process trays are among the favored applications, Mitchell says.
“RPET provides a cost savings over PETG, but many companies choose EcoStar because they are committed to the environment,” she adds.
Plastic Ingenuity (www.plasticingenuity.com) converts stocks such as office paper and corrugated materials into packaging using its molded fiber process. The company recently expanded its molded fiber thermoforming capabilities to meet projected demand from medical and non-medical customers for the paper-based packaging, says Tim O’Connell, marketing.
Plastic Ingenuity uses a Type 3 molded fiber process featuring “Curve in the Mold Technology.” In the process, heated dies and molds are employed as the pulp is put through a coining process that presses out moisture and creates well-defined and smooth surfaces. In a molded fiber clamshell developed for a Help Remedies’ package sold at retail, Plastic Ingenuity formed two molded fiber pieces that were combined with a frame of blended Plastarch Material (PSM) made by Team Technologies. Featuring a plastic-like finish, the package holds different pharmaceutical products such as bandages, allergy medicine, and ibuprofen.
An Ameristar Packaging Award Winner in 2010, the package uses molded fiber along with a blend including PSM, a biodegradable corn based product.
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