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Injecting an innovative packaging solution

Syringe maker Safety 1st Medical relied heavily on suppliers for help in designing an automated packaging solution for its unique syringes.
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When medical device manufacturer Safety 1st Medical decided to enter the United States marketplace in 2001 executives knew they’d need help from their suppliers. Much of the assistance they needed came from Multivac whose engineers helped design an easy-to-use thermoformed package that also protects healthcare professionals from needlestick that is accidentally sticking themselves with the syringe needle. The thermoform/fill/seal packaging system designed by Multivac to pack the syringes helped Safety 1st enter the competitive U.S. market efficiently and profitably. Three of these systems now operate for Safety 1st two in California and one in the South.

“We have specific needs for our packaging to be durable” says company president and CEO E. Craig Wilhelm. “We need to ensure the sterility of the product all the way through to the end user as well as ensure that our cost of goods is favorable. Multivac really chipped in and did a fantastic job working with us in designing our packaging. They gave us great advice as to not only the kind of equipment but the kind of film and other ancillary products even down to the printers on the machine.”

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Safety 1st Medical’s syringes comply with the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act passed by Congress in 2000. They feature a one-hand operation require minimal training and are easily locked and unlocked with a built-in safety sheath to discourage reuse and to prevent injury. According to Wilhelm it was essential that the packaging be equally safe and easy to use.

“It has to be durable enough to prevent the sterility from being compromised” he says. “Assembling the equipment to cost effectively and quickly produce these packages was the real value in working with Multivac. Because we didn’t have a packaging engineer and were new to the U.S. market we needed a partner who would work with us to assemble a total packaging solution. We were able to determine what type of packaging features we needed in an end product and they helped us design a complete line to create it quickly and cost effectively.”

The packaging consists of a clear forming web constructed of a coextrusion of polyethylene and nylon. Lidding material is a 25-lb paper with 2-mil peelable sealent that is printed with the company’s logo and product information. Both top and bottom webs are supplied by Perfecseal.

The company chooses not to identify packaging speeds. But Wilhelm emphasizes that achieving current speeds was made possible not only by the Multivac equipment but also by other packaging equipment in the line that contributes greatly to overall efficiency.

Efficiency at work

Currently Safety 1st is running one Multivac Model R330 and two R530 machines. The most recent installation that went into production just more than a year ago is the R530. Located in the firm’s California plant it’s equipped with a Motoman pick-and-place robot.

In that application syringes are conveyed out of the automatic assembly machine in pucks that are six up. The robot uses mechanical grippers to pick the completed syringes out of the pucks and place them in pockets formed 10 across by the Multivac system.

With the syringes in place the containers are ready for application of the lidding material. As the lidstock leaves the unwind stand it moves past a Bell-Mark Flexprint II flexo printer that prints logo visual instruction aides the bar code and needle size in two colors.

The two webs then come together in a heat-seal station that marries them. A short distance later a lot number is printed on the lid by a Videojet ink-jet printer. This second in-line printer is required because of the unique lot number.

According to Wilhelm it’s not practical to make new flexo printing plates for the Bell-Mark for every lot that’s produced. The ink-jet printer easily reprogrammed at a keypad when a lot number changes makes more sense.

Individual packs are cut free from each other by knives. From there the packs are conveyed to a station where they are hand packed for delivery. Afterwards e-beam or gamma sterilization is conducted by an outside party before shipment across the country.

According to Wilhelm the new equipment in the California plant has been every bit as satisfactory as the machines installed in the other two plants.

“Multivac’s service and integration support provide the production edge we needed to compete in this industry. Our products have to arrive in pristine condition and Multivac’s packaging systems and service have helped us to accomplish our goals on time and on budget” he says.

Available nationwide Safety 1st syringes continue to gain market share since their 2001 launch in the United States. —ALR

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