End-to-End Innovations - Pharmaceutical Technology

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PharmTech Europe

End-to-End Innovations
Integrated lines, flexible machines, and high-barrier materials enhance packaging options.

Pharmaceutical Technology
Volume 33, Issue 3, pp. 52-58

Hallie Forcinio
Concerns about efficiency and sustainability are inspiring improvements to equipment for all parts of the packaging line. Many packaging innovations and portents of future trends were on display at the most recent Pack Expo International, which was held in Chicago, Illinois, in November 2008.

Tablet-filling and labeling lines

Uhlmann Pac-Systeme, long known for its blister-packaging equipment, launched a fully integrated tablet-filling line at the show. The line is the company's first foray outside blister packaging equipment and its first product introduction outside Germany ("Integrated Bottle Center," Uhlmann Pac-Systeme, Laupheim, Germany).

The turnkey, modular line integrates equipment from several suppliers to fill as many as 240 bottles/min. The line's hygienic design and automated changeover reduce downtime. Designed to comply with stringent European limits, the line generates noise levels of less than 74 dB, even at top speed. Bottles ranging in diameter from 35 to 76 mm and as tall as 193 mm pass through an unscrambler and receive a two-dimensional code, which is checked by a vision system for correctness and readability. Code data also are captured and stored to enable future tracking and tracing. When the bottle arrives at the desiccant dispenser, another camera checks the code. If it's not accurate, no desiccant is dispensed, and an integrated shift register ensures the bottle is not filled or capped.

The next step is the filler, which maintains positive control of tablets. After filling, a metal detector checks for contamination before a rotary chuck capper applies the cap. The capped container than passes below an induction sealer. Just before the exit, another camera checks the bottle code once again. Three lanes at the exit transport good containers and shunt aside rejects and samples. Line operation and changeover is controlled from the operator interface. Changeover between bottle sizes requires no physical adjustments and takes only 20 min.

We will be seeing more ...
Another turnkey line supports ePedigree serialization and track-and-trace initiatives. Incorporating equipment from several companies, the line consists of a pressure-sensitive labeler, shrink bundler, several vision systems, and a case packer and palletizer. The labeler applies serialized, two-dimensional barcodes or radio-frequency identification (RFID) labels. The vision system captures the serialized codes and makes the data available to ePedigree software through an Ethernet connection. Serialized containers are shrink bundled, and a print-and-apply labeler applies another label, which may be RFID-equipped. This label also is checked by a vision system. Shrink-bundled products are then loaded into cases, which are labeled by another unit. A third vision system checks these labels (Integrated packaging line for product serialization, NJM–CLI, Lebanon, NH).


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