Serialising single doses makes it possible to track each primary package. Photo: SEA Vision
Forgery-proof blister packs
For medication, clear product identification is a fundamental requirement. Folding boxes, cartons and pallets generally meet this requirement, but primary packaging such as blister packs does not. Two companies have launched a solution that comprises a whole range of technologies for printing, inspecting and packaging serialised blister packs and for their aggregation in boxes.
Along the supply chain, during the sale or in the hands of the consumer, it can happen that blister packs are taken out of the folding box and thus separated from the serialised secondary packaging. Serialising the blister packs as well can provide protection against counterfeiting. This would also give the primary packaging a unique encrypted number that is stored in a database and linked to the according data. In case of doubt, each blister pack could be reliably traced back to the manufacturer. The serialisation of primary packaging is currently not mandated by law, but the new solution by SEA Vision and the Marchesini Group already offers pharmaceutical companies the possibility of protecting their products against counterfeiting in primary packaging.
The two companies have developed a comprehensive solution package for this purpose that includes technologies for printing, inspecting and packaging serialised blister packs and for their aggregation in boxes. The intention is to improve product identification, for example in cases when the blister packs are distributed (e.g. in hospitals) or used separately from their original packaging. In this way, pharmaceutical manufacturers can anticipate future statutory regulations and give their packaging processes added value today.
A pioneering solution
A great advantage of serialising single doses is the new possibility of reading drug information via digital package inserts that patients can call up by simply scanning them with their smartphones. By digitalising the package inserts, the information becomes easily accessible even if the medication has been removed from its box.
The inspection ensures that each blister pack was printed correctly. Photo: SEA Vision
Information can be added to the primary packaging in a number of ways. For example, a neutral roll of aluminium can be printed in-house, with direct inline printing using a printer installed in the blister thermoform packaging machine. Another possibility is the use of a roll-to-roll machine. Inline printing solutions allow for a high printing speed (up to 75 m/min) on aluminium blister foil and maximum flexibility, not only for serial batches but also for printing non-serial print templates. However, the aluminium foils can also be printed offline using a roll-to-roll machine. In this way, all the necessary print templates can be printed in advance and be kept available in stock without needing to depend on a third-party supplier. Now, SEA Vision has developed an inspection solution for both scenarios.
In terms of hardware, the Contact Image Sensor with CoaXPress interface from SEA Vision was identified as the most suitable tool for the requirements posed by this technological challenge. When integrated into the SEA Vision tracker, this sensor allows for a homogeneous inspection of foil sheets up to 367 mm with high resolution (600dpi), an inspection of foil made from multiple materials and a high image transmission speed enabling line speeds of up to 75 m/min. In the area of software development, SEA Vision has developed new algorithms for reading codes and monitoring printing quality, and has further developed an in-house application to maximise performance.
The Marchesini Group contributes an integrated, robotised line for packaging blister packs in boxes to the joint project. The compact multi-lane blister line 720V (up to three blister feed lanes) consists of two sections: one blister packaging machine that forms the blister packs and places the products to be packed in their cavities and one cartoning machine that packages the blister packs in boxes.
Both sections are connected by Robocombi, a three-axis robot that is fully integrated into the line. The high-tech arm inserts the blisters into the product packaging and can be programmed to carry out different stacking sequences depending on the number of blisters entered. It is controlled by software that allows for automated synchronisation of the transfer, tracking and stacking systems. The two sections can be placed in separate locations, meaning that they can be integrated into environments of different classes and operated independently depending on customer requirements.
Integra 720V can produce up to 720 blisters (made of aluminium+PVC/PVDC/PET/aluminium and other materials) and up to 500 boxes per minute (with tab or glued seals and other combinations). Cleaning and changing formats is easy as the product loading area is separated from the electrical and mechanical parts.