The highest productivity with maximum flexibility

Schubert-Pharma combines the thermoforming and carton packaging of pharmaceutical products on a single machine

The combination of thermoforming and cartoning is usually done on two single machines. Schubert-Pharma combines these tasks in a TLM system for its customer IDT Biologika in a way that is both space-saving and efficient.

Thanks to the ability to handle different types of products on the system, the customer achieves highly efficient capacity utilisation.

IDT Biologika is an international contract packer for pharmaceutical products and part of the Klocke Group. With more than 1500 employees, IDT is the largest company in the group and specialises in the production, filling and packaging of vaccines and high-quality biologics.

The service company covers all development, production and quality steps from active ingredients in bulk form, through sterile filling, to packaging processes and cooling chains. To this end, the company uses state-of-the-art manufacturing and packaging technologies.

The increasing complexity of packaging solutions, changing customer ordering behaviour, as well as the trend towards smaller batch sizes pose new challenges to production technology and led IDT to implement a new manufacturing strategy in the field of assembly.

A long-term solution

The packaging applications at IDT include cartoning vials of various sizes, numbers and configurations, with or without partitions, as well as blistered syringes and combination packages of syringes and vials, which are combined into kits.

A recently added application is to package and carton medical devices in thermoform packages. The customer approached various machine manufacturers with these requirements.

“We want to achieve greater flexibility with fewer packaging lines in the long-term, while increasing capacity utilisation,” explains Raimund Merkel from the Klocke Holding.

“The decisive factor for Schubert-Pharma was its ability to realise the required processing operations within a single line. Other suppliers could not offer a system concept in which all the necessary functionality was available in one machine from one manufacturer."

"As IDT is a contract packer, more and more formats are continuously added to the required production portfolio. Creativity and flexibility were required from all involved parties and this is what made the project especially exciting,” adds Karin Kleinbach from Sales and Project Engineering at Schubert-Pharma.

High added value in a small space

In spite of the complexity and the many applications and formats, the machine is very compact. This ensures outstanding operability, serviceability and a clear machine layout.

When packaging the devices, the thermoform trays are first produced in Schubert’s thermoforming module. Unlike competitive options for thermoforming packaging, a mother tray is formed with a defined number of individual trays that are only separated later in the process.

In the area of product feeding, the grouping processes of the products to be packaged are already done on transport robots, called Transmoduls, using F4 picker robots.

A vision scanner positioned above the product belt transmits the position and number of the products of the delivered trays to the F4 picker robots. These then pick up the individual products and place them in the thermoform trays. Subsequently, the trays are mechanically separated and the product is loaded into a top-load carton.

The vials are conveyed to the labeller in a standing position, either by means of a turntable or a belt and then transferred to the product belt. This belt is positioned in the working area of the F4 picker robots, so the vials are pregrouped by the same robots, which also process the devices. “This gives the customer a highly flexible and space-saving solution,” says Karin Kleinbach.

Automated line clearance, less manual documentation, faster batch changes

As IDT Biologika packs a wide range of products on the line, proper line clearance between batches is an absolute requirement. "Intermingling must be entirely ruled out,” highlights Raimund Merkel. This process runs automatically in the TLM machine and offers the customer significant time savings, considerably increasing the system availability.

System control is handled by Schubert’s own VMS packaging machine control system. By means of confirmations and counter-checks, it is ensured that no products from the previous production are still on the line.

A sensor automatically checks whether all transporters are empty and passes this information on to the machine operator.

“This guarantees maximum safety and security for the manufacturer — entirely eliminating any potential for cross-contamination,” explains Karin Kleinbach. “Furthermore, this process enables a significant reduction of manual documentation, leading to faster batch changes.”

Together with its customer, Schubert-Pharma harmonised all existing packaging and product formats and, using its expert team, also planned additional formats for future applications. As a result, IDT is ideally equipped to package new products for its customers quickly and flexibly in the future.

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