Even Packaging Can Multitask

Interphex attendees found packaging machines and containers with increased functionality. This article contains online bonus material.
Jun 02, 2010
Volume 34, Issue 6

Hallie Forcinio
Packaging exhibitors at Interphex, which took place April 20–22, 2010, at the Javits Convention Center in New York, concentrated on increased functionality. Examples included extremely flexible packaging machines and inspection equipment capable of performing multiple tasks.

Flexible machines

In a first for North America, a fully automatic machine aseptically fills and seals presterilized bags. Rated at 60 bags/min, the unit fills volumes from 50 to 1000 mL. The space-saving design features a robotic infeed and outfeed, laser printing of variable data, print-quality confirmation by a camera-based vision system, shelf-life-extending evacuation or nitrogen flushing, a clean- or sterilize-in-place product path, and fully automated changeover (BFL 854 aseptic bag filler–sealer, Plümat North America, Naperville, IL).

A precise femtosecond laser applies tiny, two-dimensional data-matrix codes to transparent containers. The laser's ultrashort pulses do not mar the surface of the glass or plastic, but change its refractive index to mark the container without additives or emissions. Resulting codes are machine readable on full or empty vials, but only can be seen by the naked eye when illuminated at the correct angle. Codes identify the container for subsequent labeling operations and can be integrated with secondary packaging for track-and-trace requirements (TRACKinside laser coding and LineDirector software, Crest Solutions, Cork, Ireland).

A vacuum system gently transfers solid dosage forms from bulk boxes, bag-lined drums, bags, or intermediate bulk containers (IBCs) to the hoppers of filling machines. The automated system eliminates manual handling, lifting, and climbing to reach hopper heights, as well as the need to suspend IBCs above packaging machines. The system also dedusts as it transfers, thus eliminating the need for a separate dedusting operation. For flat-bottomed drums, which are difficult to empty completely, a collar on the vacuum wand draws the bag liner inward to shift remaining product to the center for capture by the vacuum. If necessary, the system can use conditioned air or be sealed to limit operator exposure to the product (No Tip Unloader, Volkmann, Neuss, Germany).

Linear synchronous motor technology on a modular conveyor precisely moves, positions, and tracks loads weighing as much as 2 kg with no pressure accumulation. The system can move in either direction and conveys product on small pucks at speeds of up to 2 m/s, about seven times faster than standard conveyors. As many as nine pucks can be in motion per meter. With no belts, chains, gears, wheels, or external sensors, the washdown-compatible system contains few moving parts. Software simulation and configuration tools and plug-and-play track components simplify setup and subsequent reconfigurations. Track parts include 90° and 180° curves, 180° over–under curves, 0.25-m and 1-m straight tracks, and left and right diverges (MagneMover Lite conveyor, MagneMotion, Devens, MA).

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