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Post published on 14/04/2021

IMA Safe: a deep experience in blister packaging

The pharmaceutical sector is a very demanding market. In its many years in the field, IMA has gained in-depth knowledge and understanding of this constantly changing complexity. We have got to grips with it by working together with the major players in the sector, the biggest pharmaceutical companies. Through constant dialogue and feedback, we create new drug packaging trends and technologies capable of meeting the requirements of today and laying the foundations for tomorrow. But what does this all mean in practice?

Simple solutions to complex problems.

As early as the ‘60s, IMA began entering this market and started working on the most complex projects that would otherwise have been rejected or modified by other suppliers. Through what would become the IMA Safe division, which designs fully automatic machines from primary packaging to the end of line, we have seamlessly adapted to the multifaceted needs of the sector: management of products with special composition or positioning in the package, strict accessibility and cleanliness standards, ease of use. By so doing, we used our customers’ problems as a springboard to develop systems capable of packaging any type of product in any condition and in any configuration. We still work like this today. Instead of offering already finished solutions, we provide various technologies that are put together like the words of a phrase to formulate a precise response that expresses an extremely complex concept in simple terms.

What about blisters? A custom-made universe…

Our blister packaging machines are the best example of this. It is just the final step in a long design journey, which begins with the customer’s product and the system with which it is fed into the packaging process. The specialised IMA Safe department designs custom-made feeding systems capable of combining and guaranteeing maximum efficiency, fewer possibilities of blockages – and therefore of operator intervention -, and high speeds. What makes a product “difficult”? The dimensions – very large or very small -, the shape – irregular or asymmetrical – , the contours – flat or rounded -, and the composition – sticky, powdery or fragile. Over time we have developed dedicated feeders for each of these types, which are further customised on a case by case basis.

… no size limits.

All these variables that can be combined with each other have led to us working on some very special projects: 5 different products inside the same blister (e.g. hormonal drugs), products requiring a particular arrangement inside the pocket (e.g. on edge, 2 in the same pocket), products hazardous for the operator that require containment measures and total isolation (e.g. cancer drugs). To guarantee the IMA standard even in the most complex applications, we have developed ad hoc solutions with above-average performances. One example of this is our Roller Feeding System, which is ideal for high-speed management of special products that need to be placed in a precise, controlled way into the pocket, both for ALU and multi-product thermoformed blisters.

A 360° view.

Based on this extensive experience, IMA Safe has adopted a precise approach to maximise the performance of its blister packaging machines: it requires perfect synergy between the blister feeding and forming technology. Neither of these aspects is designed and developed by us without having first been combined one with the other. This is why IMA has a laboratory for researching and testing forming materials. We work on the materials proposed by our customers to understand exactly how far we can go with film deformation whilst ensuring maximum product protection at the same time. Alternatively, we study and test new materials with a focus on sustainability. Here at IMA, we can make blisters using myriad different materials, from the well-known PP, PVC, ALU, ACLAR, to easily recoverable or low environmental impact materials such as PLA (PolyLactic Acid), a compostable material made from renewable resources such as maize and sugar cane. Finding the perfect combination of feeding and forming is even more essential in high-speed production which, without the prior research, development and testing work, will inevitably lead to lower yields. The C80HS blister packaging machine is designed precisely with the intention of combining high speed and maximum performance whilst guaranteeing the possibility of forming large-sized blisters (another factor that can reduce performance, at least in terms of speed). Today this model is a top choice in its production range.

A demanding market calls for a simple, accessible response.

The pharmaceutical market is changing and calling for strategic choices in three different areas: commercial (different countries -> different regulations -> different product presentations), marketing (special packaging and frequent changes to keep up with trends) and technical (meeting market requirements by managing several products on a single packaging line). This means increasingly small production batches and more frequent changeovers. But, of course, the time available has not changed at all. This is why being able to act quickly in production downtime is economically decisive. Our machines are designed to enable easy access to all components for routine maintenance/cleaning or size changeovers, which are increasingly simplified to ensure they take less time even when carried out by no-experienced operators.
GIANT is a blister packaging machine with top of the range technology suitable for medium speeds, designed and developed around the operator: all areas are easy to access while moving parts remain isolated and accessible solely when the machine is stopped. Each work station is positioned at ergonomic height, change parts have an optimised weight and are easy to remove/insert.

Ensuring GIANT performs at its very best is SOMBRERO, designed to maximise the winning characteristics of the core aspect of production: feeding. SOMBRERO is a feeding system patented by IMA Safe that can feed different-shaped products simultaneously, thanks to its extreme tolerance, and handle all types of forming material.

This characteristic makes it a top choice for containment applications in which stoppages in the feeding area are to be eliminated, thus ensuring the operator is not exposed to a potentially hazardous product. In line with our philosophy, the size changeover is extremely simple and takes just a few minutes thanks to the limited number of parts involved.

 

 

GIANT blister packaging machine

C80HS Blister packaging machine with integrated cartoner

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