Equipment suppliers are aiding packagers with process
improvements to meet demanding product coding and marking
Justifying a machine upgrade for in-line coding and printing
is getting easier. Coding and marking systems are providing
packagers with increasingly higher quality at affordable
prices. The rationale for machine upgrades ranges from
cost reduction, by replacing a preprinted top web, to
an improved ability to verify product marking.
with these trends, pharmaceutical and medical product
manufacturers continue to segment their product offerings
to design short runs and unique packaging, thus creating
the need for highly flexible machines capable of quick
their motivations for upgrading equipment vary, healthcare
packagers seem to agree that bettering in-line
coding and printing equipment is easier to
justify today than it has ever been and well worth the
investment, as the following examination of coding and
printing processes demonstrates.
In the world of flexographic printing, new developments are making in-line color coding more precise, according to Bob Batesko, Project Manager for Bell-Mark Sales Company. The company recently outfitted packaging equipment supplier Multivac (Kansas City, MO) with a two color in-line flexographic printer. The printer "is an extension of our established FlexPrint line," says Batesko, "but it's unique because it has two color printing capability and is installed on a horizontal form-fill-seal machine."
(Pictured above, FlexPrint II on Multivac R530)
FlexPrint II replaces the single color in-line printer
Multivac's customer had been using for a medical device
application that calls for manufacturing in a variety
of designs, including dosage variations. "With the
additional requirement for bar coding, a two color preprinted
top web would have been required. This would have been
way too costly," says Tom Pugh, Vice President of
two color flexographic printer, which incorporates precise
print capability, achieving color-to-color registration
of 1/64", is designed with a central impression cylinder
and two servo driven motors, one on each print cylinder.
One Axima unit controls both motors and ensures exact
color registration along with precise package registration.
the installation of this New two color [printer] was really
based on the inventory reduction of preprinted to web,"
says Wil Caraballo, technical manager of the medical division
at Multivac. "Because the customer required a bar
code and a logo, the amount of preinventoried top web
was extremely high. This made it very difficult to make
any further packaging changes on demand, because a large
quantity of preprinted web would have to be made obsolete
by any print change. In addition, the lead time for preprinted
top web is often several months. This requires even more
inventory." By contrast, he says, using the two color
system from Bell-Mark allows the packager to hold unprinted
paper/poly top web, significantly reducing the investment
in inventory. Multivac's customer spent nearly $100,0000
to outfit its form-fill-seal machine with the two color
in-line printer, and, according to Caraballo, the money
was well spent.
our perspective," he says, "manufacturers of
medical devices [would benefit from] this type of print
technology" being installed on packaging machines.
When it comes to short runs and changeovers occuring as
many as three to four times per day, he says, the demand
for precise print registration is high.
addition, says Glenn C. Breslauer, Director of Marketing
and Internet Development for Bell-Mark, makers of such
products as syringes, catheters, and latex gloves have
a need for two color process due to sizing requirements.
"ISO standards that exist for certain products call
out exact color codes for a corresponding size of a needle,
for example," Breslauer says. "Two color in-line
printing allows the user to color code at one station
of the printer, and print the corresponding information
with the other station using another color."
Many medical devices need to have certain international symbols printed directly onto their packaging, adds Breslauer. "Two color printing can be utilized to differentiate the contents of the package from the required symbols. One plate can be designed and printed in one color, and a different variable plate can be removed or replaced when either a company logo or the contents of a package might need to be changed."
The potential for gaining market share by offering a cleaner, less confusing package, says Breslauer, is perhaps the greatest benefit that two color in-line printing can offer medical device and drug companies. "Pharmaceutical and medical packagers can offer more attractive packages that are more easilty identifiable by their customers."