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Post published on 09/03/2023

Better Safe than sorry

Safeguarding a product, protecting its value and ensuring extended shelf life may all be associated with a conservative approach. However, since IMA designed and launched the C60 blister machine in the 1970s, light years ahead of anything the market had seen until then, the division providing primary and secondary packaging solutions to the pharmaceutical industry has never resisted the urge to innovate. Behind the pragmatic understatement emerging from the words of a man who joined IMA over 30 years ago, Pierluigi Tampieri, lies an adventurous approach which keeps IMA Safe on the crest of the wave, registering patents, testing new materials and introducing new technologies.

You’ll probably be surprised, but this summer we have launched the slowest cartoner in the world.”


Reading the future is not everyone’s business

Building it is the only way to make it happen. Initially, the industry looked for reliability, efficiency and speed. Pharmaceutical giants aimed for huge volumes and we worked to increase the number of tablets or capsules we could pack per minute. We built faster blister machines and cartoners, more accurate counting machines, and developed ingenious tablet feeding solutions for which we are recognised as unrivalled pioneers. Today we are witnessing new trends, while keeping one eye on the current demands and one eye on tomorrow’s requirements.

Whereas volumes and speed were the key words last century, there is a fast-growing need to offer extreme flexibility, move towards eco-friendly materials, provide digital solutions and ensure timely service, understanding the industry’s ecosystem. Customers trust IMA Safe because we speak the technical language they are accustomed to. We know which aspects are most important to them and devote significant resources to designing the appropriate solutions, often tailored down to the finest detail.

One trend is now an imperative

Sustainability is no longer just on the tip of everyone’s tongue, it is here and now. A number of the multinational pharmaceutical companies have set themselves a target: no more PVC by 2025. Our ambition is to make that possible within the next 2 years, achieving equivalent production performance within 3 to 4 years from now. We are working closely with industry suppliers to find alternatives to PVC, testing new materials on our machines to ensure both paper or PE/PET blister packaging will fully satisfy the market’s requirements. Here too, we are building the foundations for the future of the industry.

Evolving the senses and implementing tomorrow’s technologies

Another imperative is that which enables companies to handle tiny batches of high-value products, for example personalised therapies which can be produced in very small volumes.

This necessitates maximum flexibility to maintain production efficiency, no longer the obsession with speed and mass production. This is where we slow down, but it is not as simple and safe as you may imagine. Designing the slowest cartoner in the world is a step ahead in time.

At the turn of the century, the introduction of servo motors gave us the means to increase machine flexibility, reducing the time required for format changeovers. Twenty years on, we are evolving through the implementation of advanced robotic technologies. Now all you need to do is personalise the robot’s hand as they manipulate different products or packages. They may be slower, but the time needed between frequent production batches to adapt to the next recipe is minimal.

And where do we go from here? The next step will be to give the robot the intelligence and sensitivity to self-learn and manage that hand alone. Once they can see what they are doing, feel the materials they are handling, they will play an essential role in the future of pharmaceutical manufacturing. And it’s a safe bet to say that we will be there to support the industry.

IMA Safe designs and manufactures complete lines for primary and secondary packaging for the pharmaceutical, nutraceutical and cosmetic industries. Constant research into new solutions that respond to evolving market trends and the ability to customise equipment whose modular design facilitates seamless integration with other machines have allowed the division to consolidate its status as a benchmark in the market.

“It is our duty as market leader to champion sustainability and fuel all the initiatives that mitigate the impact packaging has on the environment.”

Interview with Pierluigi Tampieri, IMA Safe Vice President

After graduating in electronic engineering from the University of Bologna, Pierluigi began his career with Elettronica Santerno in 1984 as a researcher, developing several innovative projects in industrial automation and robot design. In 1990 he joined IMA, going from one role to the next with increasing responsibilities until 1994 when he took over as head of research and development of the pharmaceutical division. In 1997 he was appointed director of the blister division, responsible for marketing, technical support to sales, research & development, customisation, production and after-sales service. Since 2009, Pierluigi is IMA Safe vice president and responsible for the group’s packaging divisions located in Italy and abroad.

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