Turnkey line loads pharma stick packs into flip-top boxes

As single-serve sachets continue to grow in healthcare, an equipment supplier develops a robotic packaging line designed for efficiency, precise handling/closing, and ergonomic line access.

A complete packaging line loads stick packs of single-serve powders into a flip-top box design.
A complete packaging line loads stick packs of single-serve powders into a flip-top box design.

The use of single-serve sachets for the distribution of drugs and supplements in powder and/or granulated form continues to grow within the healthcare and pharmaceutical markets. Single-portion sachets or stick packs are an alternative to tablets, offering benefits depending on the product’s chemical and physical characteristics.

Cama Group has implemented packaging systems starting from flat blanks instead of pre-glued cartons, allowing for greater flexibility and lower overall cost of packaging. Additionally, secondary packaging is increasingly becoming an essential part of the drug production and delivery system.

Cama recently designed a complete line for a major biopharmaceutical company, where the packaging machine loads stick packs of single-serve powders into a flip-top box design. This custom system results in a consumer-friendly package with a convenient reclosable top.

The challenge for this project was to offer the pharmaceutical manufacturer a turnkey system, incorporating the following, along with other pharmaceutical quality control measures:

  • Packaging development, with the special box design
  • Traceability requirements for the product and packaging
  • Leaflet/booklet dispensing

Cama integrated all the individual parts of the line, incorporating multi-head robotic forming, a loading unit with multiple vision-driven delta robots, and a multi-head robotic closing unit.

The robotic forming machine is designed to work over a wide range of boxes and includes features such as automatic adjustment of glue guns and automatic recognition of the size parts to be replaced. Each box is individually detected at the moment of pick-up from the magazine, and the relevant code is checked in real time to ensure full traceability of the packs while avoiding any potential mismatch related to magazine filling by operators.

The vision-driven robots allow for the handling of individual sachets. These are able to adapt to misalignment or uneven flow of the stick packs from the upstream equipment. The key benefit of this handling technique is that it can accommodate a wide range of different pack counts, in this case from eight to 50 sachets/pack in various loading configurations.

A leaflet/booklet dispenser was integrated in order to feed the additional documentation required for regulatory compliance for the final saleable unit. The same robots that place sachets into boxes also load the booklets.

The same principle and robot from the forming module provides reliable carton closing. The robotic closing unit offers benefits compared to a traditional closing machine where the closing sequence is performed with boxes running through the machine. The robotic unit performs all the closing operations with boxes standing still to allow for alignment of all the flaps and more consistent quality of closing, due to both the static position of the boxes and even application of pressure across the glued areas.

The robotic line offers operators safe and ergonomic line access, with complete visibility over all the line modules for a turnkey line with a small footprint. The system offers the biopharmaceutical company high production speeds and reliability, delivering reduced waste and lower maintenance costs, with minimized electrical and air power consumption.

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