Many medical packages are sealed individually using pre-formed thermoform trays and pre-cut Tyvek lidding which requires manual lid placement by operators. Trays are loaded into the machine, product is placed in trays, lidding is hand-applied, and the heat platen is activated to seal the lidding to the tray for a predetermined time, pressure, and temperature.
Sonoco Alloyd's new patent-pending medical sealing system is being demonstrated on the Aergo 2 machine at PACK EXPO Connects, where the need for placing individual cut Tyvek lidding is eliminated by integrating a roll feeding system into the sealing machine. The roll structure, permanently fixed on the sides of the machine is also offered on the Aergo 2 Plus heat sealing machine.
So far this week, PACK EXPO Connects has seen over 115,000 directory visits as of Nov. 11 with 108,000 visits to exhibitor showrooms.
Two heavily guarded side panels contain the roll and rewind rolls necessary for the automatic placement of the Tyvek lidding (unguarded nip rollers can be hazardous for operator safety). The system accommodates 1073B printed Tyvek, 1059B, and super lightweight 2FS, sterilizable by ethylene oxide (ETO), gamma or E-Beam.
Available starting in January 2021, the system is designed to increase speed, seal quality, and seal accuracy, which are all critical for medical devices to arrive safely to the healthcare setting.
Reducing waste and costs
In some applications, the new Roll Fed system allows for the use of thinner Tyvek. This thinner material reduces the weight and cost without compromising sterility. Without the roll fed system, a thinner or lighter weight pre-cut lid might curl or move during tray indexing and sealing. The roll feed system fully removes these seal quality errors. As Kim Sanderson, marketing specialist at Sonoco Alloyd, explained in a product demo, “Advantages of using lighter weight lidding materials include less overall packaging costs, lower waste and similar benefits to form fill seal without the high cost of integration.” The company has calculated cost savings start at around 10% on raw materials saved alone.
Both the forward roller and opposite rewind roller are powered by dual servo-driven motors paired with a series of highly engineered breakers that keep the Tyvek taut and located above the package until sealing operation is engaged. The system can accommodate rolls up to 14” in width. “This torque applied pressure ensures a tight seal against your package and removes any swelling or extra material that would allow for product to move about,” said Sanderson.
Via the 10-inch HDMI touchscreen, Tyvek is programmed to auto advance at a predetermined length, by either a photo eye for printed materials (accurate to ± 1/16”) or linear indexing measurement for unprinted materials, such as for hand-labeled medical packages. The multi-lingual touchscreen features full color display and on screen prompts were designed for ease of use.
Sealing and diecutting happen at once. When the tray fully engages into the machine, the Tyvek indexes, and the heat platen automatically comes down to seal and cut the Tyvek in the customized shape. Once the predetermined seal time has elapsed, the heat platen then comes up and the operator may bring the tray back out to remove the finished package.
On the other side of the system, scrap webbing is neatly and automatically rewound on the opposite roller. Sanderson said this excess material may be recycled or sold to regrind HDPE scrap facilities.
This automated system eliminates manual lid placement that takes time and can cause errors:
- Operators no longer meticulously place the pre-cut lids over the trays using locating pins. (Pins are completely removed with this new integrated medical sealing system, saving on tooling costs.)
- Lack of locating pins eliminates the indents in Tyvek lidding.
- Upside down, doubled or missing lidding is eliminated as well.
The roll-fed medical sealing system is designed to offer increased repeatability at approximately 2-6 cycles/min, depending on the application and operator pace. The Aergo 2 features a 12” x 18.5” seal area while the Aergo 2 Plus features a 14” x 28” seal area.
“When working with medical packaging, there's very little, if any room for mistakes. With the integrated medical sealing system, operator error and misplacement of lidding is eliminated. Backwards lidding could cause a costly quality error further down the road If it were to ever reach your end customer,” as Sanderson explained. “Upside down lidding has the ability to hold up production lines as activated coating buildup must be removed from the heat platens or any subsequent lids will stick to the tool. Misaligned lidding from atmospheric interruption during tray engagement wreaks havoc on seal accuracy and integrity. Trays sealed with lidding completely absent has even larger consequences of contaminating tools by melting raw plastic to the bare tool. Any contamination must be removed before further sealing operations can proceed again.”
Customization based on application
Tooling is designed and manufactured at the same time as the machine and tray order. The system is compatible with various medical-grade roll supply materials including foil, paper, and clear sterile barrier film. Specialty tray materials such as direct seal technology may be incorporated. Additionally, multiple number-up seal tool configurations may be designed to maximize production and efficiencies.
There are a number of optional features that may be applicable to device manufacturers, including UDI printing, RFID tooling, power shuttle tray, validation ports, automatic product lift, ionizing bar and ethernet ports.
To view the demo in its entirety (available through March 31, 2021), and add Sonoco to your MyConnects Planner, click here.