Film Innovations Offer Improvements in End Use, Efficiencies
At its Medical Packaging Innovation Forum in April, Sealed Air Corp. showcased its latest film innovations as well as its technological collaborations with industry partners. Held at its Packforum site, which the company has dedicated to customer education, demonstrations, and research, the two-day event also hosted guest speakers speaking on the importance of customer input, nanotechnology, and sustainability.
Through its Packforum facility, Sealed Air “focuses on two critical factors—understanding end-user needs and technology development,” explained Teresa Preskar, VP and General Manager, Sealed Air Medical Applications, to the audience of medical device packaging professionals.
Film advances highlighted improvements in process efficiencies and end-use characteristics, among other benefits.
Sealed Air demonstrated its new flexible forming film Latitude ML29C running on a Multivac. The thinner, puncture-resistant film features 35% more material per roll than competing films.
Sealed Air’s Jennifer Foreman (Blocher) showcased its new flexible forming film Latitude ML29C running on a Multivac with a coated-paper top web. The film allows a 25% reduction in material gauge when compared with an EVA/Ionomer/EVA film offering the same mechanical properties. It provides enhanced puncture resistance, offering significant downgauging possibilities.
In addition, the thinner-film Latitude results in 35% more material per 50-lb roll, and 7500 more feet per pallet. Blocher explained that a 30,000 m² order could eliminate 28 production changeovers on a customer’s thermoformer.
Videojet’s Randy Schutte joined Sealed Air’s Russell Darley to demonstrate a new printing process using Sealed Air’s NexMark HDPE top-web film. Using unique technology, a photochromatic additive in the film absorbs light from a laser for printing text, bar codes, and graphics. Because the additive has been deposited into the skin layer of the film, print cannot be rubbed off and won’t fade under anticipated environmental conditions.For instance, one year of accelerated aging under UV/sunlight exposure resulted in no fading. Darley reports that laser-marked films have passed cytotoxicity tests, and bar codes are easily read and graded. The film features a wide sealing window, can seal to and peel from a variety of thermoformable bottom webs, is radiation sterilization compatible, and provides solid-white seal evidence. The technology may be beneficial for manufacturers with large numbers of SKUs who are interested in reducing working capital and preprinted inventory or in reducing machine downtime and waste from many changeovers because it allows for run lengths down to a quantity of one. Sealed Air also sees a place for this technology in helping MDMs comply with the needs of UDI (Unique Device Identification) as it becomes a regulatory requirement.
Sealed Air’s NexMark, a HDPE based film, was developed in collaboration with Videojet to create an ink-free marking process using a laser reactive film to produce high-resolution graphics and bar codes.
Sealed Air’s Silvio Gianoli also demonstrated use of its Nexcel M4001 series film on rotary or intermittent high-speed four-side-seal pouch-making machine from J.R. Maruani. Suitable for sealing to uncoated direct-seal papers and films, the M4001 reacts quickly to heat with only 0.2 seconds of dwell time required for sealing. The film features a sealant designed to match paper variations and provides consistent seal strength. According to Sealed Air, sealing such a film to an uncoated paper results in a cleaner dust-free process because there is no hot melt lacquer. In addition, eliminating the need for a heat-seal lacquer can save up to 20% in material costs. Using simulations, Sealed Air can help customers with a total package cost analysis.
Sealed Air’s Josh Wofford discussed the use of films for active packaging during a demonstration on a Multivac horizontal form-fill-seal machine that included an integrated O₂ triggering unit and oxygen-scavenging film. Inspired by its Cryovac food-packaging films, activated scavenging films pull oxygen out of the headspace once the packaging is sealed and absorb it to bring the residual level down to almost 0%, explained Wofford. OS2030 and OS2030AF films offer both oxygen-barrier and oxygen-scavenging layers and are activated with an inline initiation system using UV light mounted on the Multivac. In ambient storage conditions, the activated films can scavenge up to 43 cm³/m²/day and in refrigerated conditions up to 33 cm³/m²/day. The multilayer coextruded films feature a PET layer that can be trap printed if needed.
Also available are non-iron-based active-barrier films that maintain a 0% transmission rate for up to 6 months. These films require no activation. Users could marry an active-barrier bottom-web film to an oxygen-scavenging top-web film, or Sealed Air could incorporate both functions into one film.
Sealed Air’s Alexis Chalfant demonstrated films for pharmaceutical solutions using a Pluemat bag-filling machine. M331 is designed for dual-chamber bags with internal frangible seals, allowing users to mix two solutions prior to use without using additional containers or components. The film features a broader operating window, enabling robust permanent and frangible seals that maintain consistent performance and are compatible with sterilization at 121°C. It offers clarity and toughness as well as extremely low extractables. Another new film, M318, is a lower-cost non-PVC film for IV solutions. The nine-layer film uses lower-cost resins than typical films for IV solutions, but actually features a lower gauge, allowing Sealed Air to supply more film per roll. While offering good clarity, it does exhibit slightly more haze than Sealed Air’s premium line of IV-solution films.
Sealed Air’s Bryan Gaudet and Angela Shotton also highlighted its Nelipak custom thermoforming and design capabilities as well as its Nelipak Added Value Services from North America and Europe to complement the supply of packaging. Gaudet detailed the capabilities of its Venray, Netherlands, and Cranston, RI, design centers, which offer design and thermoforming services, including extensive prototyping capabilities. “The prototype is the most important part,” explained Gaudet. “Anything looks good on paper, but will snaps or other features be needed? We can make a die and develop prototypes that can be used for production. We like to get a solid model of the product itself and design around it.”
Gaudet explored a number of recently completed designs, including a tray system developed for Harvest Technologies, which was recognized in the Institute of Packaging Professionals’ Ameristar 2012 awards (see page 12 for details).
Sealed Air’s Shotton explained its Enhanced Services for package and process validation support, contract packaging, and inventory management of additional supplies such as boxes, lidstock, and inserts and outserts for instructions for use (IFUs).
Sealed Air has also expanded to include offerings in temperature-monitoring systems and insulated packaging solutions and real-time vision-enabled monitoring systems that have so far been used to promote infection control in healthcare settings.
Sealed Air’s Jim Cochonour explained its supply chain data-logging service using the Temp Trip system. Users are provided with reusable RFID-enabled data-logging tags that can record up to 720 data points, Cochonour reported. “In the past, companies paid for these data loggers but their customers never returned the tags, so they never got the data, unless there was a problem,” he says. “We support customers through a data-gathering service following a Netflix-like proposition. After shipping, the tags are mailed back to Temp Trip for processing and reuse.” The tags allow real-time monitoring of temperature-sensitive products using RFID readers that upload data to the Internet throughout the entire supply chain.
Also applicable to supply-chain protection is Sealed Air’s Instapak cold-chain package systems and other protective packaging systems through its collaboration with NanoPore. NanoPore produces vacuum insulation panels (VIPs) with cores from silica- or carbon-based materials. Sealed Air’s high-barrier, abuse-resistant Cryovac films can be used to give the panels themselves a three-year lifespan. Future work entails enhancing the barrier and sealant and working toward oxygen barrier, explained Sealed Air’s Tom Ivy.
Guest speakers Brandon Craft and Paul Fearis of Clinvue spoke at the event to encourage medical device packagers to observe customer behavior. “Discover unmet needs and find solutions,” implored Fearis. “Be rigorous in investigating the voice of the customer. And remember that nobody cares about technology—they care about the experience it delivers,” he said.
Clemson University speaker Young Jae Byun, postdoctorate research fellow, spoke about the potential of tapping nanotechnology to improve material properties, but acknowledged that customers and governments distrust it. Future nanotechnology gains are to be had, however, in terms of recyclability and sustainability. “Lead time from R&D to shelf could be long, though,” he said.
In terms of overall sustainability efforts, Ron Cotterman, Sealed Air’s VP Sustainability, said that while sustainability is being discussed in the business value chain, there is the perception that “you can go green only if it saves money.” He highlighted Sealed Air’s SmartLife approach to sustainability and encouraged attendees to “look at the entire life cycle of a product to prevent waste, improve operations, reduce risk, and enhance overall sustainability.”
Cotterman added that the role of packaging should be appreciated. “Packaging saves more than it consumes. Even small increases in product losses can have a significant impact on sustainability. So companies should protect what is important and avoid supply chain damage and spoilage.” Visit www.sealedairmedical.com for details.