Tim Kearns from Videojet Technologies explains some of the processes behind varying printing methods, as well as the impact of serialization on labeling.
Tim Kearns, Pharmaceutical & Medical Devices Manager for Videojet Technologies, participated in a Q&A about the company’s printing technologies.
Q: In the past, what has been the standard printing method for drug/vaccine packaging?
Kearns: Thermal inkjet (TIJ), lasers, continuous inkjet (CIJ), thermal transfer overprinting (TTO), and labels have been employed for years to meet the demands of various pharmaceutical packaging. We’ve found that TIJ and lasers are most popular for carton coding, CIJ and lasers are ideally-suited for vial cap coding, while high quality coding on flexible packaging, like blister lidding foils, Tyvek® and pouches, can be achieved with TIJ, TTO, and lasers.
Q: What, would you say, is the most commonly-practiced printing method for drug/vaccine packaging at present?
Kearns: It really depends on the type of product and packaging. For prescription drugs, our customers most often select TIJ and laser technology. For over-the-counter, they most commonly select CIJ. Labels are prevalent for secondary packaging like cases.
Q: How is Videojet technology different from these previous (or current) methods of printing for drug/vaccine packaging?
Kearns: We’re innovators. Recently, we expanded our Wolke brand TIJ line with the introduction of our Wolke m600 OEM, the first printer engineered from the ground up to seamlessly integrate into sophisticated packaging equipment. Our Wolke TIJ solutions are backed by over a decade of successful pharmaceutical applications. We also launched a Videojet UV laser this year, which can provide high resolution, permanent marks on HDPE plastic.
Kearns: Lasers, TIJ, and TTO help our customers achieve high resolution 2D codes on various packaging including bottles, labels, and blister foils. For smaller form factors such as vials, tubes, and pouches, we can leverage the micro printing (and UV ink) capabilities of our CIJ printers.
Kearns: Again, the printing and marking method depends on the packaging type. TIJ technology is well-suited for higher throughput carton lines. Wolke brand TIJ printers drive multiple printheads with one controller, enabling coding of multiple packages with one printer. Laser systems can also be installed to mark on multiple lanes and offer the advantage of code permanence on cartons, metal, HDPE, foils, blister packs, plastic bottles, and glass vials.
Kearns: Validation is a process led by the pharmaceutical manufacturer, but can be made easier by a good vendor partner. Videojet can provide IQ/OQ validation packages and printers that facilitate adherence to 21 CFR Part II technical controls to help meet the customer’s documentation needs.
Kearns: Many pharma manufacturers are making assumptions that are leading them to delay the implementation of data capture systems for track and trace. In reality, meeting the 2017 requirements is a big step in meeting the 2023 deadline, as it requires item-level serialization. Manufacturers should be setting their plans in motion to deliver 2D codes and four lines of text on each unit by 2017.
Kearns: Gone are the days of discrete packaging systems; now they must be integrated. It’s important to work with suppliers who know where the industry is headed while designing systems to work in pharma’s more interconnected ecosystem.