May 17, 2017
Medical devices are often packaged using horizontal form-fill-seal packaging equipment. This can provide a secure, serializable way to protect the products from manufacture to use.
The packaging usually needs to be printed with product information, instructions and mandated information such as item numbers, date/lot codes and UDI barcodes. In many cases, the medical device company purchases rolls of packaging material, where all the fixed information is pre-printed and the variable data is printed at the time at packaging.
Of course, buying pre-printed rolls of material means managing specific packaging inventory for every item manufactured, for each market in which the product is sold.
One way to simplify this is to purchase blank rolls of packaging materials and print the complete package at the time of packaging.
Greydon (part of our ProMach Labeling & Coding Group) specializes in printing equipment that is integrated with horizontal packaging machines. Greydon offers two solutions for eliminating pre-printed materials, flexographic printers and digital printers. In this article, I’m going to focus on our flexographic printers.
Flexo technology is well proven for printing on many types of substrate and is probably the most common form of printing seen today.
Greydon flexo printers are designed specifically for use with horizontal packaging machines and usually print during the dwell time when the packaging film is stationary. The system uses a conventional flexo arrangement with ink reservoir, engraved anilox roller, and photopolymer printing plates.
Where our printer is unique, is that instead of the printing taking place in line with the film feed direction, the print roller moves across the web, during the dwell period. Working in this orientation reduces the width of the print drum since it no longer needs to be the width of the web and also provides for excellent print registration.
The result is a compact print system where a second ink system can also be installed to provide for two color printing. The ink system is removable and can be swapped out quickly for color changes when changing jobs.
For packages that are very long, we also provide flexo printers that print in the feed direction.
Obviously, it doesn’t make sense to use flexo for the variable data – this would mean having to have a new printing plate for every lot. Instead, a second printer is added that works in conjunction with the flexo.
The secondary printer is often an HP-based inkjet head that traverses across the web with the flexo drum, but it could also be one of our thermal transfer printers or our digital Genesis. Whatever technology is chosen, the secondary printer prints the date/lot codes, serial numbers, and UDI Datamatrix codes to ensure your packages meet all the current FDA print mandates.
To assist with your quality control, we can provide barcode scanning and print inspection systems to ensure that every package you ship is 100% correct.
Which Technology to Use?
When choosing a technology for printing your medical device packaging, everything depends on your particular application. For example, if the packaging line runs 100% of the time on one product for one market, it would make sense to buy you packaging materials pre-printed for that job. Greydon can supply a printing system to add to your packaging machine that can print the variable data and barcodes at packaging time.
On the other hand, if you have to manage an inventory of many printed items for different jobs and change the line over quite often, the flexo system might be best for you. With low-cost, water-based inks, and fast changeover, our flexo printers are up and running quickly after a product (end even ink) change.
Have a lot of products and very frequent changes? In this case, printing the complete package with the programmable Genesis system could be a great fit.
With a lot of options, it can be hard to decide which is best. That is where Greydon comes in. With a comprehensive line-up of technologies, we can work with you to determine which combination is best to meet your particular needs.
Greydon is a specialist in printing for medical device applications, with a long history of success in ensuring quality and compliance. We work with many of the largest multinational medical companies as well as some of the smallest.