Even Packaging Can Multitask - Pharmaceutical Technology

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PharmTech Europe

Even Packaging Can Multitask
Interphex attendees found packaging machines and containers with increased functionality. This article contains online bonus material.


Pharmaceutical Technology
Volume 6, Issue 34, pp. 34-36

Multifunctional inspection

Quality control always is a prime concern, and pharmaceutical manufacturers continue to express high levels of interest in flaw-detection equipment. Particularly notable is the growing number of multifunctional systems, many capable of providing 100% inspection at line speeds.

A low-power diode-laser system with as many as four heads checks vials of freeze-dried, liquid, or powder products for raised stoppers and headspace moisture and oxygen. Because the laser can be tuned to match the wavelength of the gas, it also can be set to detect nitrogen levels. Stand-alone or on-line configurations handle single vials or trays. Container sizes range from 1 to 200 mL. The system can check as many as 600 containers/min (high-speed headspace-inspection machine, Lighthouse Instruments, Charlottesville, VA).

Raised stoppers also can be detected by camera-based systems. Capable of measuring variations of 1 mm, an intermittent-motion unit holds vials steady to ensure that good images are captured. The system bolts to existing capping equipment and also analyzes headspace or checks for the presence of moisture with the addition of a laser or near-infrared module, respectively. Other options include application and verification of lot numbers (vial-inspection platform, Genesis Packaging Technologies, Exton, PA).

Improved operation and connectivity characterize a new leak detector for syringes and vials. Electronic vacuum control increases precision and shortens cycle time, enabling the detection of leaks as small as 0.005 cm3 per minute. To check for leaks, packages are placed in a test fixture inside a test chamber and a vacuum is pulled. If leaks or other defects are present, the equipment will register changes in absolute and differential vacuums. The nondestructive test is more sensitive than the traditional dye-ingress test (VeriPac 455 leak detector, Packaging Technologies and Inspection, Tuckahoe, NY).

Another multifunctional system checks headspace oxygen with a laser, confirms container–closure integrity with a vacuum, and measures lyophilized-cake quality and moisture content with near-infrared technology. An integrated camera performs surface inspections and verifies two-dimensional data matrix codes. A timing screw–starwheel arrangement provides positive container handling and rejection (Wilcomat R 36 MC–LFC–V–HAS–NIR leak tester, Wilco, Wohlen, Switzerland).


ATC's ME2 microflow leak tester identifies container–closure integrity problems in packages of injectable products. (PHOTO IS COURTESY OF ATC)
Microflow technology detects leaks as small as 0.2 μm in blister packs, pouches, vials, syringes, cartridges, and other flexible and rigid packages. Available in two designs for sterile and nonsterile products, the patented system checks for gross and fine leaks by measuring the mass of molecules in motion. Flow rate is proportional to defect size. Inline models run at speeds as high as 200 packs/min (Model ME2 packaging leak tester, ATC, Indianapolis, IN).


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