Supplier Innovations in Blister Packaging
By Marie Redding
Klöckner Pentaplast has a new high-performance polyester blister film platform, Pentapharm kpVantage, which launched January 2010. It is available in mono and barrier structures to include ACLAR and PVdC films with a broad range of moisture and oxygen barrier properties.
“Pentapharm kpVantage film has an extremely wide, nice operating window,” says Daniel Stagnaro, business manager, pharmaceutical films, Americas at Klöckner Pentaplast. “With the lower forming temperature and faster line speeds as compared to present structures, less energy is used, which lowers operating expenses because there’s less wear and tear on tools and heating plates,” says Stagnaro.
The film can be processed on existing equipment without requiring tooling changes. “It runs on the same equipment that pharma companies already have—it seals at the same temperature, and there’s no need to change your package design,” says Stagnaro. Four different companies are launching new pharmaceutical products using the film.
Körber Medipak showed the White-Line by MediSeal packaging and logistics concept for blisters at Interpack this year. Nielebock says that MediSeal has been getting a lot of requests throughout the past year about it.
With the White-Line concept, small batches of blisters can be easily printed with the country-specific information where they will be sold. Instead of a multitude of country-specific packaging material and inserts, the White-line system is based on blank (white) printing material. The country-specific information will be printed on the packaging line on cover films and boxes as well as package inserts. This solution enables one to bundle several small batches, normally implying long-term changeover time for a conventional production line, into one bigger batch. The reversal time for a different language will be fully automated by a line management system within 10–12 minutes. “You can switch formats often, in a very short time. It can help reduce changeover times by almost 40% and help increase efficiency for pharma manufacturers,” says Nielebock. “It offers the highest level of customization,” he adds.
Perlen Packaging has been seeing an increased interest in its anti-counterfeiting blister solution—Identity. “We’ve had this for about 5 years now, but customers were primarily looking for electronic track and trace solutions and found it difficult to quantify the costs. Now, the industry is showing interest in Identity,” says Douglas Voreis, vice president, Perlen Packaging.
Perlen Packaging’s Identity film is a custom hologram that is printed on the blister—unique because it offers security down to the tablet level. “Holograms are printed between the serrated edges of the blister, on each pill,” says Voreis. Both overt and covert features can also be incorporated to make the hologram more secure.
Uhlmann Packaging Systems’s latest is the BEC 300 Blister Express. Says Dirk Corsten, managing director: “It addresses the need for fast changeover and performance. It’s very simple to operate, and only has a minimal number of format parts that need to be changed,” he says.
The BEC 300 is recipe-driven and it sets itself without the risk of human error. “Also, once the machine is set, the settings are reproducable—no need to make fine-tuning adjustments every time you changeover,” he says. It’s priced to sell—providing the market with a lower-cost option. “We not only offer an appealing price, but we have significantly reduced lead time for our machines, down to 4 months.” Devising a way to manufacture this machine more efficiently helped bring costs down. Serial production was a huge change for Uhlmann, since the supplier had always custom-built every machine in Germany, according to a customer’s specs.
Pharmaworks will release two new feeder systems at Pack Expo Las Vegas. One is a robotic-based feeder system, and one is a traditional style. Both will address cost and efficiency issues. “We used robotic technology to create a blister transfer system with cartoners,” says Ben Brower, vice president and sales director, Pharmaworks. Currently, the way blisters are transferred from a Pharmaworks’ blister machine to the cartoner involves many steps.
“The blister has to be brought down off a conveyer belt and into a magazine. It goes into a bucket. It’s transitioned 3 or 4 more times before it finally gets into the bucket of the cartoner,” says Brower. “But with this system, it goes right from the blister machine into the bucket of the cartoner—and only the good ones get picked, not the rejects. So its one complete step—it picks and places, without letting go until you’re ready to stack,” says Brower.
Pharmaworks also distributes Scanware’s 3-D vision system exclusively in North America. Earlier this year, Scanware’s 3-D vision system became available—lasers are used to create a topographical image of every tablet in a blister, rather than just an image of the top view. “You can see the high and low spots, and it checks for defects that a camera can’t see,” says Brower. For instance, if a gel capsule were dented or deformed, a traditional vision system may pass the product—but a 3-D system will detect the dent by building a 3-D image, says Brower.