Packaging flat sterile products efficiently and reliably

When flat and sterile disposable products are being packed in large batch sizes, it is not only the pack quality but also the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of production which is of great importance.

Thanks to its technological leadership and high level of expertise in medical applications, MULTIVAC is among the leading suppliers of packaging solutions for sterile medical products. These include surgical and examination gloves, which are produced primarily in Asia.

Even when it comes to low-price disposable products such as gauzes, wound dressings and sterile gloves, which are used every day in large numbers in hospitals and surgeries, there is no room for compromising the quality and sterility of the products and their packs. When these medical products are being used, patient safety must still have the highest priority. Given the high production volumes and low margins, the manufacturers of such products are faced with the challenge of designing their production and packaging processes as efficiently, reliably, and above all, as cost-effectively as possible.

Maximum pack quality even at the highest output

The greatest challenge when packing these products is to ensure the optimum seal seam quality is achieved, while at the same time maintaining high output rates. This is absolutely essential for achieving a reliable sterile barrier. Another challenge for these products is that the pack must be capable of simple opening in a controlled manner since the products have to be removed quickly and safely from the pack when used in the hectic daily lives of hospitals or emergencies at medical practices. Peelable packaging materials are used primarily for these products.

Another important aspect is designing the thermoforming packaging machine to the individual requirements of the customer. Among the most important factors in configuring the machine is the pack design itself, as well as the packaging materials that are to be used. But it is also important to take into consideration the required product throughput, the integration of auxiliary line components such as systems for feeding, converging and orientating the products, as well as solutions for automated label and print inspection. And last but not least, the space available in the production environment must also be taken into account, when the packaging solution is being designed.

Packaging sterile gloves

A good example of such a packaging solution for flat, sterile disposable products is the packing of sterile medical gloves, since these low-price products are manufactured and packed in large quantities. Malaysia is among the leading countries worldwide in this market sector. The country supplies more than 50 percent of the global demand for disposable medical gloves, and it is the most significant exporter of these products worldwide. It serves more than 195 countries and counts the USA, Japan, Brazil and Turkey among its most important sales markets.

Since the most significant manufacturers in this sector have achieved consistently high sales figure growth, and many of them have daily production volumes of up to 250,000 pairs of gloves, it is not surprising that competition is fierce and driven by a continuous expansion of production capacity. However, pressure on margins also increases from rising costs, such as wages, energy prices and logistics.

Market success thanks to technical expertise and being close to its customers

For several years MULTIVAC has been one of the leading technology suppliers in this market, largely because of its regional presence and its many years of expertise in medical applications and technology. MULTIVAC provides sophisticated but also needs-based and cost-effective solutions from one source, which enable these manufacturers to master the increasing challenges. A major part of the solution is the perfect design of the thermoforming packaging technology to meet all the demands of this particular market sector. MULTIVAC has also developed a standard, which ensures the optimum pack quality and maximum process consistency are achieved.

In recent years, MULTIVAC has built up a technical infrastructure designed to meet the specific needs of customers in the medical products industry. One example of this for serving the Malaysian market is the state-of-the-art test laboratory, which was set up at the MULTIVAC subsidiary in the city of Petaling Jaya, and which enables a wide range of medical product trials to be carried out, such as seal seam tests, bubble and burst tests or dye tests. The expertise that is gained here is also utilised by MULTIVAC to further develop efficient and cost-effective standard processes, which can be used to pack other flat and sterile medical products similar to disposable gloves.

MULTIVAC is also an active member of the organisational structure of Malaysian manufacturers of disposable gloves, and it supports the industry in creating the framework conditions to secure the long-term competitiveness of these manufacturers on the world market.

Sterile disposable gloves: A challenging application

Packaging sterile disposable gloves for use in operating theatres is a particularly challenging task. The gloves are placed as a pair in folded paper in such a way, that they are ready to put on directly when unpacked. They are then packed on a thermoforming packaging machine under cleanroom conditions. Generally lower and upper webs of a peelable PA/PE multi-layer film are used. All the relevant variable data such as shelf life and batch number must be clearly visible on the pack.

The outer packaging is inspected for any damage immediately before the gloves are used in the operating theatre. As regards the opening of the pack, the aseptic presentation of the paper inner packaging and the removal of the gloves, it is very important to follow a precisely defined sequence, so the sterility of the gloves is not compromised. This requires the pack to have the maximum product protection and offer an absolutely reliable sterile barrier, as well as also being easy to open. The high level of seal quality required can only be achieved through the most even distribution of sealing pressure possible, and this forms part of MULTIVAC's core expertise as the leading supplier of thermoforming packaging machines.

In summary, MULTIVAC's prominent position in this market sector is due to the fact, that it recognized at an early stage the special need for efficient and cost-effective packaging solutions, which offer the maximum equipment reliability and pack security. Thanks to its wide experience in the sector and its outstanding expertise in these products, as well as its strong commitment to the organisational structures in the region, MULTIVAC has been able in conjunction with local manufacturers to significantly develop the market both in the region and worldwide. In Malaysia alone, there are now some 30 MULTIVAC thermoforming packaging machines packing medical gloves.



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