The term “printed electronics” covers, among other things, electronic applications created in a printing process. This method already allows, for instance, the production of RFID solutions, sensors an

© Saueressig

Talking pill boxes

THE PACKAGING THAT KNOWS EVERYTHING.  One company with innovative smart packaging solutions for the pharmaceutical industry is Rondo AG in Switzerland. Its built-in NFC technology improves communication between customers, doctors and pharmacies, as printed and organic electronic modules help to ensure better patient compliance and prevent the dissemination of counterfeit medicine packaging.

Interactive channels of communication

The folding box manufacturer Rondo AG is presenting not one, but two solution proposals for smart packaging applications in the pharmaceutical industry. Relevant details can be shared between patients, doctors and pharmacists via a wireless chip within the packaging and through an electrochromic display. The chips are based on near-field communication technology. Moreover, patient leaflets and instructions on the interactive packaging can be audibly read out by a smartphone, which can also be used for the automatic ordering of the medication. Customer details, the name of the drug and the recommended dose are displayed on the phone, and as soon as an order has been placed, the doctor or pharmacist receives confirmation. To reduce the chances of counterfeit products, all chips are marked with the manufacturer’s ID. User-friendliness is further insured by electrochromic displays integrated into the wallet packaging. They record the removal of pills from the blister package, thus preventing the patient from taking double doses or reminding them to take their medication if they forgot to do so.

Organic and printed electronics

Experts from the Organic and Printed Electronics Association are expecting to see a sales increase of around 19% in printed electronics and organic displays. The international industry association VDMA (German Machinery and Plant Manufacturers’ Association) believes that the focus is now clearly on the worldwide networking of the production process with its many different options, including design options. Today’s ageing population structures are setting new standards in packaging. Hybrid systems are contributing new opportunities to the world of packaging. The combination of organic and printed electronics and silicon elements is ideal for the production of flexible, lightweight, yet nevertheless robust packaging. Furthermore, it allows low-cost manufacturing, using standard processes with no extra effort. Electronic product labels pass on data to the relevant doctor, such as the time when a patient took their medication. Thanks to extremely thin sensors, the time, place and temperature can easily be called up on a smartphone app which also flashes up visual signals to indicate whether a specified limit has been exceeded. The storage media which contain the data are rewritable as and when required.

Practical applications

As soon as someone with an NFC-compatible phone approaches the innovative packaging from the French company Arjowiggins Creative Papers, the relevant app automatically displays the product information. Integrated printed electronics is also used by the Belgian company Quad Industries. Working together with the Changzhou Institute of Printed Electronics in China, Quad Industries has developed a credit-card-sized label which can be attached to drugs packaging. It then records all temperature developments during transportation, thus indicating any disruptions to the refrigeration of the pharmaceutical product. The label obtains its electric power from a printed battery.

Electronic product labels pass on data to the relevant doctor, such as the time when a patient took their medication. © imec
The French paper specialists in printed electronics, Arjowiggins Creative Papers, equip products with NFC paper, so that the required details can be sent to a smartphone. © Arjowiggins Creative Papers
Today’s ageing population structures have led to new expectations on packaging. Innovations in the pharmaceutical industry cover a wide range of options enabled by NFC technology. © gekaskr, Fotolia
NFC technology in pharmaceutical packaging opens up new methods of customer communication. © Rondo

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