Automating the filling and sealing of chevron pouches: A quick primer

January 4, 2016

3 Min Read
Automating the filling and sealing of chevron pouches: A quick primer

Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging News staff

By Maureen Kingsley
Freelance Writer

Medical device manufacturers know that a chevron pouch is a type of device packaging that features an entire peelable side with a seal shaped like a chevron. It is used most often for sterile medical products that do not require rigid packaging. 
While the chevron pouch is a popular packaging option, filling and sealing chevron pouches manually can be inefficient, inconsistent, and time-consuming. Device manufacturers looking for a faster, more reliable, more efficient way of filling and sealing their chevron pouches may want to consider employing an automated system that uses their current pouch vendor’s pouches on rolls.

Manual Filling versus Automation
When a chevron pouch is filled manually, a worker first picks a pouch from a carton or stack by hand, then inserts the medical device into that pouch. Next, the worker will place the filled pouch into a heat-sealing machine to seal it closed. After performing these operations, in some cases a worker will need to add some information to the pouch by way of a label.

The drawback of this manual model is that productivity and efficiency suffer when the presentation of both the pouch and product is not consistent; for instance, the pouch is removed from a stack or box by hand, and the product itself is pulled by hand out of a bulk-filled container.

For small medical-device volumes, filling chevron pouches by hand might be the best solution; however, when volumes increase, device makers would be wise to consider automation.

Automating the filling of chevron pouches provides device manufacturers several advantages: greater productivity, consistency, and reliability in pouch-filling and -sealing operations, at a lower cost. Automation achieves these benefits by presenting an open pouch for filling and making sealing a consistent, reliable process. It also provides consistent printing of variable data via press-and-apply labels, and, in certain cases, the device’s insertion into the pouch can be automated as well.

How Automation Works
An automated pouch-filling and -sealing system, such as that offered by PurePouch (Ham Lake, MN), uses pouches on rolls, or “rollstock,” from various vendors. (In most cases device makers can continue with their current chevron-pouch vendors.) The rollstock can be any material or combination of materials, from Tyvek to polyester/poly to nylon/poly. For instance, Oliver-Tolas Healthcare Packaging (Grand Rapids, MI) provides pouches-on-a-roll in Tyvek/film, paper/film, film/film, and peelable or tear-open foil/foil constructions, all of which can be used with an automated system.

Once the rollstock is loaded, the automated system first opens the pouch, then advances it to a point where a worker inserts the device or the device is automatically inserted. The pouch then advances again to be sealed and separated from the roll. Safety interlocks prevent operator access to pinch points and, in the PurePouch machine, the set-up memory allows various machine parameters to be easily accessed and changed between jobs. Such features as counters can be employed to monitor production, and alarms and controls prevent operation when seal parameters are out of specification.

Printing on Pouches
Most applications require a printing option, and automated systems offer such an option. The PurePouch machine, for instance, offers both thermal-transfer and print-and-apply labeling. Each is done in line, printing lot codes and other essential data.

Thermal-transfer printing allows for printing anywhere on the pouch, and on either side. This type of printing works for adding lot codes, symbols, text, or artwork.

Print-and-apply labeling adds variable information to a preprinted label, which is then applied to a pouch before it is filled.

Selecting an Automated System
When choosing an automated pouch-filling and -sealing system, device manufacturers will want to look for a machine designed specifically with the medical device industry in mind. The machine design should be robust and able to provide years of reliable service. Machine parts that ensure cleanliness and safety should be present, as should seal-validation ports. Lastly, the machine should be customizable to a device manufacturer’s needs, with such options as conveyors, custom air filtration, print verification, and product insertion.

---Maureen Kingsley

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