Pharmaceutical companies that make temperature-sensitive products pay a lot of attention to the cold chain, which protects
products until they reach their points of use. Until recently, manufacturers relied on insulated shippers based on foam and
gel packs or dry ice. These designs rely on convection to cool and maintain the temperature of the air around the product.
(TETRA IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES)
Today, pharmaceutical companies are looking for longer periods of protection, and a growing number of protective packaging
designs rely on conduction. In these packages, phase-change materials keep the product in the right temperature range for
the required amount of time despite ambient conditions.
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Traditional "expanded polystyrene-foam shippers with water-based gel packs may still work in certain applications, but there's
been a tremendous improvement in the ability to control temperature," says Eric Lindquist, president of Entropy Solutions
(Minneapolis), a supplier of temperature-controlled packaging.
The envelope portion of the Greenbox Inflator Pack is suitable for one round trip before being recycled. The interior Puretemp
phase-change panels can be reused dozens of times. (IMAGE IS COURTESY OF ENTROPY SOLUTIONS)
Shippers based on conductive phase-change materials typically offer several advantages over traditional packages: a smaller
size, lighter weight, more consistent temperature readings from top to bottom, and a longer period of protection. In addition,
these shippers are recyclable and can be used for hundreds, if not thousands, of trips. Although more expensive, shippers
based on conduction often generate cost savings, particularly if their design permits a holding period that allows manufacturers
to switch from overnight air delivery to two-day or ground delivery.
The Greenbox Pallet Shipper withstands at least 250 trips. (IMAGE IS COURTESY OF ENTROPY SOLUTIONS)
"Many companies with temperature-sensitive products don't ship on Fridays because there is no one at the destination to receive
it until Monday," reports Karl Schlenker, vice-president of business development for Minnesota Thermal Science (MTS, Baxter,
MN), another supplier of temperature-controlled packaging. With 72- or 96-h shippers, "companies can ship on Fridays, too,"
Cold-chain monitoring options from Cortegra include reusable, flexible sensors with a pressure-sensitive back. (IMAGE IS COURTESY
Solstice Neurosciences (Malvern, PA) relies on a custom thermal box. The passive system incorporates proprietary high-performance
insulation that offers an R-value of 45 per inch of thickness. The design not only maintains its payload at the required temperature
for the required time, but also simplifies loading (AcuTemp shipper with ThermoCor insulating panels, AcuTemp Thermal Systems,