To modernize the packaging of its medications for neurological diseases, Lundbeck sought a new packaging system for ampules and vials. The Danish pharmaceutical company specializes in diseases of the brain and has been active in neuroscientific research for more than 70 years.
As these medications were already established on the market, there was no need to develop machine-compatible packaging with all the partitions and compartments from scratch. This accelerated the tendering process to just four months before the contract was awarded to Schubert-Pharma, the pharmaceutical division of Schubert Packaging Systems, parent company of Schubert North America.
Lundbeck emphasized its need to be able to work without large accumulation in front of the packaging area. To achieve this, only a few products were permitted to be in transit between the upstream processes and the actual packaging process. Therefore, conventional feeding technology was not suitable.
To set up the packaging process as efficiently, reliably, and securely as possible, Schubert-Pharma developed and delivered a fully integrated, turnkey line with all system components procured by Schubert. The line consists of a Schubert cartoner, a B+S labeler, a bundler from Pester, case packer, and palletizer. Schubert-Pharma solved the special, piece-precise feeding of ampules and pipettes through to cartoning by means of a small accumulation and the XTS transport system from Beckhoff Automation.
To implement the entire process—labeling the product, packing into cartons, bundling the cartons, case packing, and palletizing in the production hall—a U-shape was chosen for the packaging machine. Thanks to the flexible design of the transport system, the pillars at the installation no longer posed an obstacle. Schubert also developed a universal forming process for the various inner frames, which is format-independent and therefore takes no additional time during format changeovers.
The packaging machine is designed to pack two sizes of ampules into one-, two-, five- or 10-count cartons. Furthermore, vials, some with pipettes, are packed individually into four different carton sizes. Partitions are used with all formats to protect the glass containers from damage. Each carton is also supplied with a patient insert or booklet and is then labeled. The entire line process, from carton and partition forming, to loading the pharmaceutical products and package inserts, to closing and labeling, is handled with the aid of the Transmodul transport robot. This creates a safe, secure, and closed packaging process. Schubert’s experience in the pharmaceutical sector and advanced robot technology ensures that all specified product and packaging tolerances are met.
A special feature of the packaging machine is feeding the ampules from the labeler and the pipettes from the sorter. Beckhoff ’s XTS feed system delivers the products quickly and accurately to the cartoner’s loading area. Short buffering is possible with the process-safe feed. Thirty so-called “movers,” small independent transport modules, move on the rail-based system. They are equipped with corresponding format parts for transporting the ampules and pipettes.
Following automatic separation, five products each are loaded into a mover. Then eight movers are grouped together at the Schubert cartoner’s loading robot. The robot’s tool can pick up 40 ampules or pipettes at once and pre-group them into units of 10. From these pre-groupings, another robot takes the required number for the cartons waiting in parallel on the Transmodul.
The vials, already labeled, are then placed individually into the cartons. Once the package inserts have been added, the cartons are closed and labeled and move on to the bundling machine, the case packer and finally to the palletizer. In total, the flexible pharmaceutical packaging line processes 17 formats and delivers an output of up to 420 products/min. Due to the line’s modular design and optimized carton-forming process, a format changeover takes only 30 minutes.
“Thanks to the extremely high flexibility of the packaging line, the pharmaceutical manufacturer can now benefit from a significant competitive advantage in the market,” says Karin Kleinbach, sales director at Schubert-Pharma. - Article first appeared in PW-affiliated publication, PACK EXPO International 2022 Show Daily, on Oct. 23, 2022.