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Hallie Forcinio is packing editor for Pharmaceutical Technology and Pharmaceutical Technology Europe, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The co-located Pharma EXPO and PACK EXPO International presented technologies to protect products and people.
At Pharma EXPO and the co-located PACK EXPO International (Nov. 6-9, 2016, McCormick Place, Chicago), exhibitors serving the pharmaceutical industry featured every technology on attendee shopping lists, including serialization, parenteral fill/finish, solid-dose packaging, adherence (i.e., compliance), quality control, anticounterfeiting, tamper evidence, child resistance, and shelf-life protection.
Parenteral fill/finish systems were well-represented by Ronchi America, NJM Packaging, Capmatic, Marchesini Group, Vanrx Pharmasystems, and others. Monobloc designs, which integrate filling, stoppering, and capping operations on a single base, are widely available. In some cases, monoblocs also include labeling and inspection stations as well as robotic handling. Servo motors and drives maximize repeatability and accuracy, and many systems are flexible enough to handle vials, syringes, or cartridges. A choice of filling and capping technologies maximize flexibility, and optional clean-/sterilize-in-place product paths minimize changeover time.
Interest appears to be growing in nest filling lines like the Dara Moduline Model NFL isolator-equipped fill-finish system from NJM Packaging. Building the monobloc and isolator simultaneously cuts costs and turnaround time, making it possible to deliver the equipment in as little as eight months (2).
On the solid-dose side, Romaco North America displayed a strip packaging machine capable of heat-sealing foil laminations or polyvinyl chloride film. Less expensive, smaller, faster, and simpler to maintain than traditional blister packaging machines, the strip packager runs at up to 400 unit-dose packs per minute. Modules pull film, drop the dose in the cavity, confirm the dose is present, perforate the strip horizontally and vertically, and cut it to the specified length.
For multi-dose bottles, Enercon Industries and ITW Pillar Technologies demonstrated the latest induction sealing technology. An induction seal, applied to the mouth of a container, not only discourages pilfering and provides tamper evidence, but also can extend shelf life and prevent leaks. The new Pillar iFoiler induction cap sealer combines seal assurance, system control, and line connectivity, plus a first-of-its-kind proportional speed control. The flexible unit offers multiple coil configurations and can communicate with the operator in a variety of languages. A PackML machine control code option standardizes collection of data across machines, lines, shifts, plants, and business units and supports analysis of overall equipment effectiveness (3).
Enercon’s upgraded Super Seal Touch induction cap sealer series offers enhanced features for high-speed lines, large containers, challenging caps, remote control and monitoring, network communication and data collection, and applications needing more flexibility for locating sensors and reject devices. If a container without a seal approaches the sealer, the line stops. An advanced laser light curtain detects high, cocked, or loose caps and can be configured to specified tolerances. “Before we could only detect gross failures; now we can detect more subtle problems,” Ryan Schuelke, vice-president of sales at Enercon, told Pharmaceutical Technology during an interview at PACK EXPO.
For liquid and powdered products, stick packaging is an option that simplifies unit-dose dispensing. “We’ve seen rising interest in stick packs in the past couple years, particularly for [dry] nutritional supplements, which are mixed with a liquid,” explained Jonathan Braido, marketing manager at Key International, at Pharma EXPO. Key International, which represents Imar Spain Pack in the US, displayed an eight-lane Imar i6208 vertical form-fill-seal stick-pack machine with a volumetric filling system. Capable of operating at 45 stick packs per minute per lane, the machine can be built with up to 20 lanes. The machine delivers 2-g fills with +/- 3% accuracy and is compatible with liquid or dry dosing systems.
An optional installation qualification/operational qualification package simplifies startup of the Stick Pack ST600 machine from Viking Masek, which was shown with an integrated takeaway conveyor with stick-pack transfer system, bucket conveyor, and end-load cartoner. Compatible with powder or liquid fills, the unit works with a variety of filling technologies and web widths up to 600 mm. It also offers a choice of straight, zigzag, or round end cuts and standard or offset back seal. Tear notching, micro perforation, and laser scoring also are available (4).