A wide range of packaging solutions is used in the medical technology sector, the contents of which must be clearly identifiable for verification at any time. As a manufacturer of thermoforming equipment, GEA is a one-stop shop for a variety of integrated labelling, marking and coding systems that can be custom designed to meet specific specifications and requirements. A recent advance in GEA’s proven TiroLabel family of cross-web labelers now means that particularly small labels can be applied quickly and accurately — a unique development in the world of labelling technology.

Correct Marking is Essential

Beyond the absolute requirement for hygiene, accurate marking is essential to ensure the responsible handling of medical products. As such, GEA’s labelling/printing units are suitable for every conceivable task, surface and application; we make sure that the packaging machine and the product labeler are fully integrated to optimize machine availability and productivity. Our inkjet, thermo-transfer, hot foil and rotary printing systems, either alone or combined with the GEA TiroLabel labeler, provide a complete range of modern product marking options. 

“Investing in GEA’s labelling solutions paid off right from the start,” notes Tom Roberts, Senior Staff Packaging Engineer at the Medical Division of C.R. Bard.

Whether labelling on the top or bottom web, in the running direction of the machine or perpendicular to it, the GEA TiroLabel processes even the most sophisticated packs on a multi-track line with millimeter precision, at speeds of up to 200 labels per minute. The TiroLabel labelers guarantee exact position accuracy by incorporating special pressing device. It features a positioning unit that features a large number of spring-loaded pins, which ensures accurate label placement while preventing any damage to the packages. Suitable for any kind of surface, labels can be attached quickly and reliably.

Small Label Flexibility

Until recently, mechanical limitations meant that only labels of a certain size could be applied: 30 x 30 mm or larger. However, an American medical device manufacturer needed to use much smaller labels, measuring just 10 x 10 mm. Not only that, efficiency and economy issues had to be addressed, as well as procurement. And, because pack sizes in the medical technology sector are generally quite small, only an inline labelling solution from GEA’s TiroLabel family would meet the customer’s limited space requirements.

To develop this solution, GEA’s experts focused on two areas: first, they evaluated the existing components and, secondly, they investigated the use of servo technology. GEA’s inline cross-labelling system incorporates a standard labeler, which can be equipped with a variety of printing systems, such as thermo transfer printers. During thermoforming, directly after the sealing station, the labeler continuously dispenses individual labels in real-time. The appropriate positional axes are controlled by servo drives, which ensure that the predefined position of the package provides optimum labelling conditions, offering more than 20 cycles per minute.

The cross-web labelling system uses two standard labelling machines: one applies functional labels while the other incorporates a freely programmable thermo transfer printer for the label data, which can be changed at any time. A resolution of 300 dpi ensures excellent print quality. Benefits include greater labelling and marking flexibility, as it’s now possible to reliably print and apply exceptionally narrow labels on small pack formats. Additionally, the labelling process is faster, continuous and can be immediately adjusted at any time to accommodate changing requirements by modifying the label design inline.

The use of proven, standard components also boosts the system’s resistance to faults. These are standard, tested solutions that are widely deployed all over the world. Furthermore, customers don’t need to stock additional spare parts, which is more cost-effective. The labelling system can also be installed on packaging machines from other manufacturers. Furthermore, initial trials with even smaller labels have already shown promising results.

Cross-Web Labeler for Catheter Packages

“Investing in GEA’s labelling solutions paid off right from the start,” notes Tom Roberts, Senior Staff Packaging Engineer at the Medical Division of C.R. Bard. “They were easy to integrate and have been running in multiple-shift mode without any hitches at all. At no time have we had any downtime or breakdowns.” The company develops and supplies technologies for vascular medicine, urology and oncology, as well as specialty surgical products. “In terms of catheters alone, we are currently packing up to 60 million units per year. And the trend is continuing upwards.”

The company’s business philosophy embraces quality, integrity, service and innovation. As such, to address the issue of traceability and stringent US legislation, and to meet increasing customer demand, C.R. Bard took the logical step of enhancing its label printing and invested in new plant technology. With validation under way, Roberts comments: “We’re sure that the demand for validated printing systems will rise. For this reason, we’ve opted to implement a printing solution today to meet the labelling requirements of tomorrow.”

GEA Medical Packaging

GEA manufactures machines to pack sterile, single-use medical items, flasks and vials for the pharmaceutical industry and for the secondary packaging of infusion bags. As well as packaging machines, the company also supplies inline labelling/printing and downstream converging equipment, and quality control solutions. For every application, GEA works closely with the customer to provide a customized solution.