Among the 1,600 companies exhibiting at PACK EXPO Las Vegas 2013 (Las Vegas Convention Center; Sept. 23-25), pharmaceutical manufacturers will find a range of packaging technologies, from syringe fillers and capping equipment to labelers and vision inspection systems, and support for market trends shaping their businesses. A sampling of exhibitors sheds light on several of these trends and the resources suppliers and equipment manufacturers have in place to help drug manufacturers address them.
The pharmaceutical industry is gearing up for California’s E-Pedigree Law, which is scheduled to take effect in 2015. Alioscia Bassani, president of Capmatic (Booth 3905), says the new regulation is one of the most important drivers in production-line monitoring technologies for pharmaceutical packaging. Capmatic specializes in the manufacturing and integration of turn-key liquid and tablet packaging-line systems for middle-tier pharmaceutical companies, ranging from bottle unscrambling, filling, capping, and weighing to advanced labeling systems. “We’re getting all of our equipment upgraded to accommodate the new requirements; once California adopts the new regulations we know the rest of the states will follow,” Bassani says. Recently Capmatic built a new filling system with peristaltic pumps that can be integrated directly to a PLC and controlled through the human-machine interface on the machine. “We offer a unique hybrid approach to equipment design and integration, creating multiple applications under one system,” Bassani says.
Pharmaceutical lines, which are handling significant increases in stock-keeping units (SKUs), require greater flexibility. “The likelihood that new SKUs will be run in the lifetime of a pharmaceutical line is very high,” says Geoffroy Bretzner, managing director for Cermex/Sidel Group (Booth 1209). In addition to providing end-of-line case packing, shrink wrapping, and palletizing for pharmaceutical manufacturers, Cermex/Sidel has developed serialization expertise in pharmaceutical applications based on the anti-counterfeiting technologies it has developed for other markets. “There’s a high demand for serialization technology,” Bretzner adds. “New packaging lines need to be serialization-ready, while existing lines need to be retrofitted to allow for serialization.”
“The global trend is the slow, irregularly paced, but nonetheless consistent move to adopt serialization in national markets,” says Jonathan Ludlow, machine-vision promoter at Microscan (Booth 7455). He adds that verification systems are moving from PC-based to smart camera-based systems because of lower cost, ease of installation, and improvements in integration. Smart cameras have a dedicated processor in each unit and operate independently for more precise verification along the line of production. Ludlow notes that the pharmaceutical industry is constrained by the need to track and “mistake-proof” product assembly and packaging and to ensure the legibility of critical information such as date and lot codes.
For Thermo Fisher Scientific (Booth 1300), a critical trend in pharmaceutical line inspection is integrating checkweighing equipment with code printing and verification. The company’s Versa RxV platform integrates high-speed carton inspection with alpha-numeric and machine-readable code printing and verification. “We are also developing applications in which human and machine-readable information can be printed and then verified on the bottom of bottles as they travel from a customer’s conveyor to our checkweigher-infeed conveyor,” says Kevin Zarnick, sales manager. Thermo Fisher Scientific’s booth will highlight the Versa RxV checkweigher with a single HMI for integrated printing, code recognition, and verification, along with its APEX 500 metal detector for contaminant detection after induction sealing.
Product inspection technologies will also show up in full force at PACK EXPO Las Vegas. X-ray systems for contaminant, missing product, and mass detection are core technologies for exhibitor Novus X-Ray (Booth 4506). Novus’ imaging technology is based on the QNX platform. “This is the same software platform used in satellite communications. It’s more reliable than Windows-based systems, and it’s designed with inherent networking capabilities to provide remote control and monitoring as well as process feedback control,” says company president David DiPrato. Novus also plans to show a new line of low-pressure and high-pressure washdown systems for pharmaceutical applications.
Contaminant detection continues to be a top demand for pharmaceutical manufacturers. Wilco (Booth 4903) employs laser absorption spectroscopy to measure oxygen content within vacuum-closed or nitrogen-flushed containers. The company specializes in leak-detection and inspection equipment, offering stand-alone or combined systems. “Our technology enables detection of 10-micron leaks in liquid-filled containers with very low fills as well as maximum fills with no head space,” says Patrick Schlatter, area sales manager for Wilco, adding that the company’s detection technologies are nondestructive and designed for highly sensitive products. Recently Wilco launched a new laser technology to detect propellant gases on aerosol products.
Greener pharmaceutical manufacturing practices are being implemented by Serac (Booth 3520). Serac specializes in weight-filling equipment and offers container tare and product-weight recording all in one filling machine, while storing this information in accordance with 21 CFR Part 11 standards. Serac has developed clean- and steam-in-place systems with closed-loop, high-pressure chambers that enable quicker cleaning with fewer chemicals, thus reducing energy and chemical use while minimizing downtime. Widely used in dairy production, Serac notes these systems are especially useful for pharmaceutical liquid products such as specialty mouthwashes, anti-bacterial gels, and cough syrups. “We also offer pneumatic and servo-controlled capping technology that traces capping torques and verifies accurate sealing,” says Dan Waldron, regional sales manager for Serac.
Specialized packaging and labeling
Luc Van de Vel, manager, medical at Multivac (Booth 5935), says there are a plethora of new medical products entering the market that require specialized and flexible packaging solutions—combination packs with multiple products in one pack, medical devices combined with active products, new personalized medicines, and products that are especially sensitive to heat and oxygen. “Multivac has developed clean and flexible thermoforming equipment specifically tailored to new medical devices and pharmaceutical products,” says Van de Vel. Multivac recently launched a new thermoformer designed to handle combination packs with large and deep forming requirements and to package sensitive products.
New labeling technologies will also be on display at the show. Tri-Tronics (Booth 5712) notes a significant spike in interest for clear labeling. Tri-Tronics manufactures photoelectric sensors to print date and lot codes on products at high speeds without deviating from print areas or migrating out of drop zones when line speeds change. Recently Tri-Tronics released an ultrasonic, clear label sensor that detects clear, paper, mylar, or metallic labels on most web backing materials. “The demand for clear labeled products is growing across all areas of packaging,” says Tim Kelley, vice president of marketing at Tri-Tronics. “Our Ultrasonic Clear Label Sensor gives customers the confidence to walk away from setup without needing to attend to the sensor until the next changeover.”
PACK EXPO Las Vegas is a great place to find unique resources and opportunities in the pharmaceutical industry. The Pharmaceutical Pavilion showcases innovative solutions to secure, protect, and dispense medical devices and pharmaceuticals, and the Rx Lounge is a forum where professionals can network and exchange ideas within the industry. The Rx Lounge’s Ask-the-Expert resource will be staffed and waiting to give technical advice. Registration is open at www.packexpo.com.
—PMMI (the Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies), which organizes the PACK EXPO family of trade shows, is a trade association representing more than 600 packaging and processing supply chain companies that provide a full range of packaging and processing machinery, materials, components and containers.