Amcor Rigid Plastics , a producer of rigid plastic packaging, and Italy's Sacmi Imola S.C. , a manufacturer of compression molding equipment for closures, have commercialized the industry's first Compression Blow Forming (CBF) machine for the production of rigid HDPE pharmaceutical bottles.
The breakthrough process—which combines compression molding and blow molding—delivers significant advantages over conventional processes, providing enhanced quality, higher productivity, sustainability benefits and the potential for lightweighting.
"By adding CBF into our technology platform suite, we continue to offer our customers enhanced technology capabilities which deliver on the high level of quality our customers demand, quicker production that supports the growth needs of our customers, and renewed support for our sustainability efforts," says Latricia Fry, market development manager, for Amcor Rigid Plastics.
Amcor collaborated with Sacmi—the original developer of the process—in a 14-month development project to adapt the technology for pharmaceutical packaging. The two companies primarily focused on optimization and implementation of process control enhancements to ensure the new technology platform met the demanding requirements of pharmaceutical manufacturers.
Amcor has an exclusive arrangement with Sacmi to use the technology in select market segments and global regions. The company has already commissioned a 12-cavity platform (CBF-12), and is producing HDPE packer (over-the-counter and prescription) bottles at its Youngsville, NC, facility. Three additional machines are on order and will be in production by the end of the year.
"For the pharmaceutical industry, compression blow forming is one of the most significant technological developments for rigid packaging in decades—it's a game-changer for an industry that demands risk-free performance," says Tod Eberle, vp, quality and engineering, for Amcor Rigid Plastics. "Compression blow forming is the most advanced processing system for the production of pharmaceutical containers, delivering high-quality, reliable and defect-free parts," according to Bob Israni, Amcor's technical manager for the pharmaceutical market.
The CBF process expands and modernizes Amcor's pharmaceutical bottle manufacturing platform and represents a major improvement over conventional technologies. "Our adoption of this technology reaffirms our commitment to quality and continued focus on delivering next-generation process solutions that enhance sustainability," Eberle says.
The commercialization of the new technology gives Sacmi entry into a new market segment and increases brand awareness, according to Luca Nanetti, sales and marketing manager for closures and containers for Sacmi. "We're thrilled about the ground-breaking work we've done through our partnership with Amcor," Nanetti says. "It is consistent with our strategy of collaborating with industry leaders like Amcor who possess the know-how to deliver real-world applications and market acceptance."
In compression blow forming, material is extruded, cut and precisely transferred into the compression cavity. A preform is produced and a pre-blow and full-blow process is completed in the same mold station with no transfer of the preform.
Compression blow forming has no manifold for melt distribution to individual separate cavities, which results in better quality parts because there are no temperature differences and less chance of resin burn and degradation. The process delivers less particulate contamination and due to the continuous extrusion process with simple melt channel, resin and color changes are also quicker.
The pre-blow process allows for effective separation of plastic from the compression core. This reduces the chance of plastic sticking to the metal core rod, resulting in more uniform wall thickness distribution.
Weight distribution is also better controlled with compression blow forming. The weight of the resin shot is controlled for all cavities with a servo-controlled melt pump, resulting in more accurate part weight distribution across all mold cavities. The process also operates at lower temperatures, which results in lower residual stress in the end product and cycle times which are reduced.
Compression blow forming's continuous rotary motion eliminates station-to-station indexing time, thus optimizing idle (non-process) time. Secondary cooling on the exit conveyors allows bottles to be removed hotter from the machine.
Key sustainability advantages include a significant energy reduction through lower process temperatures and application of updated machine process improvements. The process achieves thermodynamic stability quicker and makes production bottles within 10 minutes from machine start-up.
Unique to the CBF process is a highly sophisticated inline quality inspection system, which is fully integrated into the machine control. An infrared vision system detects dimensional variations and contamination (including any embedded opaque or metal particles). Additionally, a fully integrated plasma surface treatment system is available for full wrap label and finish induction seal application and is more effective and environmentally friendly. And with CBF, leak testing validated to 0.3-mm minimum hole diameter is performed before the bottle leaves the machine immediately after each bottle is blown.
"The company sees a ‘range of applicability' for CBF and will selectively invest with customers in high-volume, long-term projects," according to Eberle. In addition to the 12-cavity unit already in production, Amcor has committed to additional CBF systems, including a 20 cavity unit which will be in production by the end of 2012. New-generation equipment will have capability for production of HDPE, PP and PET pharmaceutical containers.
Along with pharmaceutical packaging, Amcor and Sacmi envision strong potential for CBF in other markets, including single-serve dairy packaging made of HDPE for applications such as liquid yogurt and probiotics.
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Source: Amcor Rigid Plastics