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Pondering material and machinery advances

"Advances in online package inspection and integrity testing are exciting," exclaims Dana M. Guazzo, Ph.D., president of consulting firm RxPax LLC. "These include high-speed, noncontact ultrasound inspection technologies, light reflection technologies, and gas tracer techniques." David Rudd, a senior engineering specialist with Cardinal Health, doesn't "anticipate any breathtaking advances. I do expect continual incremental improvements facilitated by increased application of servo motors, improved control software, and a drive to reduce costs. I'd like to see lower-cost machines that will allow users to buy more machines for increased scheduling flexibility." On the materials side, Rudd says, "I expect that the development and acceptance of a better microbial barrier test will allow medical device manufacturers to make more informed decisions about materials used for sterilization vents."

Nancy St. Laurent, senior engineer of sterile facilities and packaging systems at Lockwood Greene, seeks improvements in printing methods. "While there have been improvements in ink-jet, hot-stamp, and laser printing, the best solution is still out there," she contends. She would like to see equipment that's "easier to set up, change over, and operate.

"Improvements in packaging machinery and materials will likely be made as packagers and suppliers communicate their respective needs. To that end, John J. White, Jr., engineering project manager at Smith & Nephew Orthopedics, offers praise to suppliers.

"The sealing technology for medical device sterile trays and pouches has greatly improved in recent years," he notes. "Things like PLC controls, password protection of set points, better alarm systems, validation ports, and bar-code checks to match packaging components with machinery parameters has greatly enhanced quality in our sector of packaging. I think packaging equipment manufacturers have listened to our requirements and made great strides in these areas. I'm very encouraged by that."

--By Jim Butschli, Editor
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