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New pharmaceutical blister packaging equipment offers flexibility and integration.
Blister packaging, a common format for solid dosage forms, continues to evolve. Equipment advances combine flexibility, servo controls, compact size, and integration with upstream and downstream equipment.
A new entry in the North American market, the MHI Eagle blister packaging machine from Maruho Hatsujyo Innovations (MHI), is an American version of its parent company’s best-selling machine. Established in 2014, MHI provides US-based installation, maintenance, spare parts, and 24/7 technical support. Parent company, Kyoto-based Maruho Hatsujyo Kogyo, ranks as the second largest pharmaceutical packaging machinery company in Japan and has installed nearly 400 blister packaging machines there. “There is no child-resistant (CR) requirement in Japan, so we had to design sealing for CR lidding (push, peel/push, and peelable),” reports Gregory Zaic, president and CEO of MHI.
The MHI Eagle blister packaging machine (see Figure 1) operates at speeds up to 100 blisters per minute at a maximum index length of 90 mm and maximum index width of 130 mm. Designed for lower volume runs, the compact, servo-driven machine with inline inspection and multi-zone preheating is especially well-suited to copackers and lines with frequent changeovers (1). With hand screws to expedite tooling changes, changeover takes less than 10 minutes and requires no tools. Other quick changeover features include recipe-driven format change and a feeder station on wheels that plugs into the main unit. “We sell two feeder stations for the price of one-and-a-half so feeders can be swapped at changeover,” says Zaic. Swapping units moves feeder cleaning offline and minimizes downtime for cleaning. The Eagle blister packager accepts feeders from other manufacturers and is easily integrated with a printer or cartoner.
A fully integrated, modular line from Körber Medipak’s Mediseal thermoforms, doses, seals, punches (perforates and embosses), diecuts, and feeds inserts and cartons. Direct product transfer eliminates fault-prone intermediate stacking units and minimizes change parts. Cameras confirm an insert is placed on every other blister before pairs of blister cards are stacked for cartoning. A display at Pharma EXPO (Nov. 6–9, 2016) showcased an integrated line on its way to a factory acceptance test. The one-lane CP400 blister packager integrated with a P1600 cartoner featured hot-melt carton sealing but also could accommodate tuck carton closure. Other potential variations include a P3200 cartoner with dual stacking devices, integration of a printer from HAPA for online printing of lidstock, various dosing systems (brush box, roller dosing, automatic spiral conveyor, or dedicated feeder) and choice of roller or platen sealing. Maximum speed of the servo-driven line is 400 blisters per minute (2). A sophisticated human/machine interface (HMI) groups functions for ease of use and helps reduce changeover time to less than 30 minutes. “All the information is in the HMI, which provides detailed instructions by system for format changes,” Kai Trepte, area service manager at Mediseal, explains.
Blipack, a company based in Argentina, also supplies integrated blister forming and cartoning lines. The centerpiece, the Blistera 200-240 blister packaging machine, combines heavy-duty construction with user-friendly operation and quick and easy changeover and maintenance. The system can be electromechanical or driven by a programmable logic controller and is compatible with thermoforming or cold-forming and a wide range of accessories including printers and semiautomatic, automatic, dedicated, and universal feeders (3). Blipack’s integrated Estuchadora ACM 150 intermittent-motion cartoner loads cartons horizontally. Carton sizes range from approximately 0.6 x 0.5 x 2.0 in. to 3.5 x 2.8 x 7.9 in. (4).
Another turnkey blister packaging line integrates the TF1e thermoformer and the TC1 cartoner from Pharmaworks. The unified system results in a compact footprint, operates from a single control system, and produces up to 100 blisters/80 cartons per minute. A robotic pick-and-place module transfers blisters from die punch to cartoner flights and eliminates the need for change parts. The number of blisters transferred to the cartoner flights is controlled from the operator interface (5).
Robotics also play an important role in the Integra 520 V integrated blister packaging line from Marchesini Group. The servo-driven system fits in 10 m of floor space and features a balcony design for the thermoforming and cartoning sections. Capable of producing 520 blisters and up to 500 cartons per minute, the Integra 520 V line succeeds the Integra 320 model and incorporates an innovative pusher, a drum-type carton-opening system to manage higher speeds, and a new leaflet pickup and insertion system. Separating product loading from electrical and mechanical zones ensures quick and straightforward cleaning and changeover. An enclosed oil bath system protects mechanicals from wear and tear and extends service life. Maximum forming depth measures 9 mm, although a 12-mm option is available. Carton sizes range from 35 x 16 x 75 mm to 90 x 90 x 150 mm (6).
Uhlmann Packaging Systems, which has offered integrated blister packaging lines for some time, offers three models: the single-lane BEC 300 model for up to 300 blisters/150–300 cartons per minute; the dual-lane BEC 500, rated at 500 blisters/300–500 cartons per minute; and the three-lane BEC 700, capable of outputting 700 blisters/300–500 cartons per minute. Upgraded in 2015, the BEC 300 model features the latest control and drive technology, tool-free format changeover, and smooth surfaces for faster line clearance (7).
Existing BEC 300 systems can be retrofitted to shorten the forming cycle, simplify cleaning, and minimize abrasion marks on forming materials. Uhlmann’s Rebuild Packaging Systems Center performs electrical and mechanical retrofits using genuine Uhlmann parts to extend equipment lifespan and meet the latest GMP requirements and legal regulations. Upgraded equipment comes with detailed rebuild documentation, validation services, and one-year warranty. Rebuilding typically saves 30–70% compared to the cost of a new machine (8).
About the Author
Hallie Forcinio is Pharmaceutical Technology’s Packaging Forum editor, 4708 Morningside Drive, Cleveland, OH 44109, Tel. 216.351.5824, Fax 216.351.5684, firstname.lastname@example.org.