Trends at PACK EXPO

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Address needs for integrated, automated systems and service.

Exhibitors in the Healthcare Packaging Pavilion at PACK EXPO International (Oct. 23–26, 2022, McCormick Place, Chicago) focused on integration, automation, and service (along with sustainability). A growing number of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are emphasizing integration capabilities. Assuming single-source responsibility for a turnkey packaging system or entire line can simplify specification, installation, and startup for pharmaceutical manufacturers and overcome gaps in in-house knowledge and manpower.

ProMach’s Pharma business unit exhibited an integrated line that included equipment from four of its brands – NJM, Pharmaworks, Serpa, and WLS – as well as systems from partners and other OEMs. “There is growing demand for our integration services as many manufacturers and contract packers with pharma, nutraceutical, ophthalmic, and animal health products have fewer resources in-house to manage line integration,” said Tom McDaniel, president of ProMach Pharma (1).

The line packages aseptic kits, which contain a vial and a syringe. It begins with a Dara NFL/2 system filling and closing ready-to-use syringes and vials. An NJM Courser 230 labeler applies labels to the syringes, while a WLS VR-72 labeler handles the vials. A robotic pick-and-place unit from PharmaMed feeds one syringe and one vial/cycle to a Pharmaworks TF2 blister machine. After sealing, a linear transport from Beckhoff conveys the blister-packed kits to a Serpa P100 horizontal cartoner, followed by a Serpa P200 case packer. Labels for the syringes and vials are printed offline on an Autonomy digital label printer from WLS (1).

In another example of line integration, ESS Technologies developed an integrated, automated cartoning/case-packing system for COVID-19 vaccines. Upstream vial labelers were integrated to deliver 150 10mL vials/min to a Model VC30 cartoner. A servo collation system arranges vials in a two-by-five pattern as a Fanuc SR-6iA robot with vacuum end-of-arm tooling (EOAT) erects auto-bottom cartons and places them on the carton transport conveyor. If required, a Fanuc SR-3iA robot erects and inserts a partition into the carton. Then a Fanuc LR200iD robot equipped with vacuum EOAT picks up the 10-count collation and places it in the erected carton. A second Fanuc SR-3iA robot picks and places a leaflet on top of the vials before the carton flaps are folded and closed (2).

A Fanuc LR200iD robot picks and places closed cartons so an integrated coder can print lot/expiration date codes and an integrated camera system can inspect the printed code. Cartons with non-compliant codes are rejected. Cartons with good codes are placed on the infeed to the case packer. The compact CEL5 case packer integrates a Fanuc M-20iA/20M robot with custom, ESS-designed EOAT to erect a regular slotted case and place it on a vacuum plate for loading. Cartons are collated into a two-by-three pattern as the robot erects the case. Using vacuum EOAT, the robot picks and loads the collation into the case and repeats the process to add a second layer. Filled cases travel to a unit that folds the top flaps and tapes the top and bottom of the case. An integrated corner-wrap print-and-apply labeler applies labels to sealed cases (2).


The best integration and automation will not deliver optimum performance without regular service. To provide the needed expertise and manpower, OEMs are launching service programs. Syntegon, for example, has established multiple service levels so end users can select a fixed-price program that matches their needs for maintenance, spare parts management, remote service, and training. The Syntegon Service Agreements include Synexio cloud-based software that monitors and evaluates machine and production data. The real-time information can be used to streamline maintenance processes and enhance overall production efficiency (3).


1. ProMach Pharma, “ProMach Pharma Showcases Line Integration Services,” Press Release, Aug. 16, 2022.

2. ESS Technologies, “Packaging Line for Vaccine Vials Meets Urgent Demand for Production,” Press Release, undated.

3. Syntegon, “Versatile System Solutions for the Future: Syntegon Presents Broad Brand Portfolio at PACK EXPO,” Press Release, Aug. 25, 2022.