Blisters and Blister Cartoning Machines: What are the Different Choices?
Blister pack is the most usual form of packaging in the field of medicine and pharmaceuticals where the protection of medicines inside is the most essential concern when it comes to packaging.
We can spot the importance of blister packaging with the study by Aalto University in Finland which has stated that in Europe and the in the sector of pharmaceuticals, almost 85% of the medications come in the form of blister packaging, given background information that pharmaceuticals and drugs account for a considerable 4% of the global packaging industry. .
In this article, we should cover some basic introduction to blister packs, how cartoning machines work to pack blister packs into cartons, as well as the various approaches to feeding blister packs to cartoning machines.
Topics: Blister Packs, Cartoning Machines, Blister Cartoner
Questions to Answer:
- What are the different forms of Blister Packs?
- How cartoning machine works for blister packs?
- What are the different ways to feed blister packs to cartoning machine?
Recommended Reading: How to Operate a Horizontal End Load Cartoning Machine
What are Blister Packs?
In the field of pharmaceuticals, blister packs, blister packaging or blisters are such packaging that usually consists of thermoformed plastics as the backboard and with multiple small cavities (sometimes referred to as bubbles, pockets, etc.) to secure containment such as capsules, pills, and tablets, the packaging is covered by aluminum foil or plastics as lidding.
Alu-Alu Blister Packs
The use of blister packs as the primary packaging for medication is marked by their convenience and efficiency. Now that the past experience accompanied by the vast production of medication by global leaders in the field of pharmaceuticals has proven that blister packs is the most affordable and economical packaging that strikes the best balance between cost, durability, humidity-proof, containment-proof, tamper-proof as well as offer clear product views.
What are the Different Forms of Blister Packs for Medication?
Basically, in accordance with the materials used for the blister’s base and lidding, blister packs can be distinguished as two types:
- Alu-PVC Blisters: conventional PVC-based blisters with aluminum foil as lidding
- Alu-Alu Blisters: Both the base and the lidding of such blisters are made of the aluminum-based film which is also called the nylon-ALU-PVC
- Alu-PVC-Alu Blisters: Blisters with plastic base and both surfaces covered by aluminum foil
We should cover in the following content the introduction, pros, and cons of each one mentioned above.
What are Alu-PVC Blisters and their Features?
Alu-PVC blister is featured a plastic backboard that is thermoformed from plastic rolls made of materials such as PVC/PVDC, PVC/PE/PVDC. A roll of aluminum foil is then processed to cover the plastic base as lidding to serve as a layer of protection against humidity, containment, dust, etc.
To put it in a brief way, Aluminum-Plastics blisters are featured as follows:
- Low cost
Alu-PVC blisters or aluminum-plastic blisters are characterized by their low cost now that PVC as the most common form of thermoforming film, is simple to deal with and is of very low price.
SEPHA, a packaging equipment, medical device and testing device manufacturer for pharmaceutical blister packaging and health care products, mentioned that the Alu-PVC blisters take up a major portion of around 60% of those blister packaging in the market. The low cost is a key factor to thanks to.
Alu-PVC blisters are featured by the transparency it offers. This is a feature that has two sides to review. The first is the advantage to offer a clear view of the products inside the cavities or bubbles. However, transparency is also a factor to blame, for the cause of which Alu-PVC blisters are not the right choice for light-sensitive medicines.
The plastic base is hard and solid against abusive handling.
What are Alu-Alu Blisters and their Features?
Alu-Alu blisters, or Cold Formed Foil Blisters (CFF Blisters), are the same as Alu-PVC blisters in that their lidding are both made of plastic. Yet the base of Alu-Alu blisters is cold formed from aluminum, or say, OPA-aluminium-PVC laminate. Features of Alu-Alu Blisters are as follows:
Alu-Alu Blisters are expensive due to the high cost of OPA-aluminium-PVC laminate. And cold forming of aluminum blisters requires more raw materials for packaging rather than thermoforming, given the same amount of tablets, pills or capsules to be carried by each blister pack.
- Optimal Ingress Protection and Impermeability
Pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers always prefer to use Alu-Alu blisters for sensitive drugs, now that aluminum blisters is almost the best option to provide proof against moisture, light, air, and both oxygen ingress and light ingress. dust so that even the most sensitive ones are able to keep their Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients until the end of their shelf life to ensure efficacy and patient safety.
- Vulnerability to Abusive Handling
Aluminum foil is not as solid as plastics and can not withstand any abusive handling. The blister base formed from cold-formed aluminum foil is vulnerable to deformation.
Different Ways of Handling Blister Packs on Cartoning Machines
The most important part for a cartoning machine to pack blister packs is the way of feeding. Through a procedure of counting, stacking and introduction (feed), the ultimate goal is to place on the bucket conveyor blister packs in the correct way and with the correct number to be loaded into each carton box.
There are a variety of methods to feed blister packs according to each packaging machine manufacturer’s experience, preference, details, and requirements of each project. Basically, there are blister handling systems or methods as follows:
- Manual loading
Manually count and place blisters on the bucket conveyor of the cartoner
- Magazine Feed Unit
Blister packs are stored in a magazine from which they are fed one by one through a vertical or dropping flow onto the bucket conveyor of cartoning machine
- Modular Hopper and Pick-and-Place Feed
A smarter way of processing and feeding blister packs to cartoning machine.
- Magazine and Rotary Feeder
Install multiple blister hoppers and rotary feeders (similar to the carton picker of cartoning machine) along the bucket conveyor to feed the blisters.
We should cover the magazine feed and pick-and-place feed methods only in this article.
For the rest of the processes, a cartoner machine flows in a known cartoning sequence as it is for other products:
Erect carton blanks with ends open, loading the blisters, complete closure by tuck-in or with adhesive, discharge.
Magazine Feed for Blister Cartoning Machine
The magazine feed unit is driven by a servo motor, incorporated with photo eyes to count the blister packs for each feed.
The magazine can keep a large number of blister packs which will follow the path through the magazine and drop from it vertically onto the cartoner machine’s bucket conveyor.
The magazine feed unit is cost-effective due to its simple structure and ease of operation.
However, a problem here is that the blister packs are better to be solid enough to withstand the process: from being stacked to falling onto the bucket conveyor. Such a requirement makes it not a best choice for Alu-Alu blisters, rather, it is recommended to be used for Alu-PVC blisters.
Blister Cartoning Machine with Modular Hopper and Pick-and-Place Feeder
We are also capable of offering an advanced solution for blister feeding to cartoning machine.
The handling system is joined by:
- Modular blister packs hopper: a modular plate-shaped device with four hoppers to keep blister packs in bulk. Once one of these four hoppers is exhausted, the plate will rotate for 90 degrees so that the next hopper is right in place for picking.
- A pick and place picker: a rotary picker that simulates the motion of robotic picker, joined by Bernoulli Gripper to gently handle the blister packs.
This handling system is recommended for Alu-Alu blisters for the features that they are vulnerable to deformation while this system ensures gentle contact to protect products from damage.
Blister Cartoning Machine for your Entry-level Needs
ELITER Packaging Machinery’s traditional model of horizontal end-load cartoner is the choice for low-cost installations where speed requirements are not that fast while the customer looks to adopt a certain level of cartoning automation.
Our blister cartoning machines haven been installed at facilities of clients including pharmaceutical companies and laboratories from various parts of the world.
- GUAYAKI S.A. International Group, Paraguay
- Adya Green Pharma, Romania
- Europharma, Wisconsin, the United States
For more information or if your are looking to buy a cartoning machine, please send your inquiry to: firstname.lastname@example.org
-  Shukla, S., Halli, P., Khalid, M.K. et al. Waste Pharmaceutical Blister Packages as a Source of Secondary Aluminum. JOM 74, 612–621 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11837-021-05038-6
-  Is an Alu Alu Blister the best choice for your product? Sepha. https://blog.sepha.com/is-an-alu-alu-blister-the-best-choice