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What does COVID-19 mean for medical packaging?

Mar 30, 2020 3:14:38 PM / by Harpak-ULMA

The pressure is on for the government to supply hospitals around the country with enough medical equipment to fight Coronavirus.

The most urgent needs of hospitals are diagnostic tools to identify those infected by the virus, followed pharmaceutical remedies like vaccines.  While diagnostic solutions and pharmaceutical remedies are the most urgent needs, basic medical devices are also needed to avoid the spread of the virus and to treat those already infected. For example, goggles, gowns, and masks are needed to prevent further infection while personal respirators and consumables required for ventilators are needed to treat infected patients.

Already, medical equipment plants are ramping up production while other manufacturers who don’t make medical equipment may look to start. Right now individual states and their governors are in charge of acquiring medical supplies. However, we could see the Defense Production Act (DPA) implemented. This would allocate money to implore factories to manufacture essential medical equipment such as gowns, masks, gloves, and ventilators. Either way, government contracts toward the production of medical supplies are currently taking shape and being fulfilled.

If you’re a medical device manufacturer ask yourself if your current packaging capabilities can keep up with demand? Do you have the ability to produce this equipment but aren’t yet because you don’t have the packaging capability? With elective surgeries taking a back seat during this unprecedented time it may be that your medical device sales have taken a hit. Your production facility may be a strong candidate for conversion to manufacturing and packaging these items that are in high demand. A medical device packaging expert can help advise on cost effective and time-sensitive solutions for your packaging needs.

How do I package gloves, goggles, gowns, and personal respirators?

Flow wrapping

You may want to consider a flow wrapping machine to package gowns, pipettes, bandages, and test kits. Flow-wrappers can be used for both Sterile Barrier System packaging as well as simple product protection (Ref:  ISO 11607; 2019.)  A flow wrap has a seal that is referred to as a non-lap type seal on the bottom and crimped end seals. In other words, the product is sealed at the top and bottom with a longitudinal seal down the middle - think of the wrapping for a candy bar.

Flow-wrappers are well suited for high profile 3 dimensional products such as CSR wrapped kits, folded gowns, labware, infusion bags, and IV sets.  Flow-wrappers wrap a single web around the product, then apply a longitudinal seal followed by the application of end seals and finally the cutting of the package to length.

Thermoforming

Thermoforming is more often used for Sterile Barrier Systems, where aseptic transfer is required. However, innovations such as a flow-wrapper that produces a chevron seal allows flow wrapped products to be aseptically presented.  Consider using a thermoforming machine to package gowns, bandages, test kits, surgical kits, and wide range of medical devices where aseptic presentation is of paramount importance. For high volume applications, Horizontal Form Fill Seal machinery forms a tray, after which the product is placed in the tray. A second web is then sealed to the tray and the product is individually packaged. The packaging is then cut to size and finally discharged.  

Typically flow-wrapping and thermoforming machinery is built and tooled for a specific purpose.  However, machinery built for one application can generally be retooled for a new application. Often the necessary retooling can be fabricated in a shorter time frame than completely new packaging can be built. Medical manufacturers are encouraged to keep this in mind as their production needs shift. MDMs are also encouraged to work with machine builders to see what inventory is on hand to explore how machinery on hand can be retooled.  

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Topics: flow wrapping, medical packaging, thermoforming

Harpak-ULMA

Written by Harpak-ULMA

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