Quality control and safety are two key focus areas for pharmaceutical manufacturing. This also is key when looking at the packaging. Let’s check out why surface treatment is one of the most important processes in the pharmaceutical industry.
Why is the Printing Important?
Printing is the key to high-quality pharmaceutical packaging. The quality of printing on the packaging is not only a sign of the quality of the product, but it is also safety-critical. Usage instructions and ingredients are often printed on the packaging. Lot or batch numbers are also usually printed. Another critical piece of information that is often printed is the expiry date.
Printing is also key to easily identifying specific pharmaceutical products. It is clear that the identification of medication is very important. There is also a lot of information that needs to go on to the packaging and this forces the font size down. Small fonts need excellent print quality to be legible.
Having established that the quality of printing is an important part of the packaging for pharmaceutical products we will now look at what influences the quality of printing on packaging. Printing is usually done by inkjet technology. The printing can be directly on the package or bottle or on a label that is glued to the package or bottle.
Extruded, cast, blow-molded and injection-molded plastic products could be part of the packaging of pharmaceutical products. Almost all of these processes will result in a plastic surface with low surface tension. Printing on such a surface will result in very bad quality printing. The ink will bead and distort on the surface. Even when dried it might not be legible.
A quality surface treatment will ensure that any printing inks will adhere well to the surface. The same is also true for glued-on labels. Without a good surface treatment to get a higher surface tension the labels will peel and the inks will flow on the surface. A quality surface treatment system, like the ones from Ahlbrandt, might include plasma or corona surface treatment and drying systems. These systems will ensure you get the best print quality.
Pharmaceutical labels should be legible and not confusing. They should have all safety-critical information needed to identify and use the product printed on the packaging. There might also be dosage and warning on the packaging. It is also worth noting that older people and people who might be under stress due to illness will need to read the labels and instructions.
Pills often come in small flat boxes. The card can get a surface treatment to help with printing and gluing before being assembled into a box. Even small boxes for pills could have a lot of information printed on them. This means that high-quality printing will be needed as the fonts will be small.
Blister packs are plastic or metallic films. These are the flat sheets of films that you find inside the flat pill carton boxes. They are usually printed for easy identification on the flat side. Having logos, names, expiry dates and batch numbers clearly visible on these thin items is important. A quality surface treatment of the film will make sure the printing is legible and logos identifiable.
Bottles like the ones commonly used for vitamins and some other supplements are blow molded. These are the bottles with a smaller neck than the bottle diameter. These bottles are formed by placing a tube of plastic in a larger mold and expanding it with heat and blown air. The tube can be extruded or performed. Basically, the plastic is blown up to expand and fill the mold.
A good surface treatment for blow-molded bottles should be incorporated in the manufacturing before printing and labeling. The treatment can be automated and cover both the front and back of the bottle with multiple overlapping treatments.
Blow-molded bottles can be shaped in different ways. Often the bottle has a unique shape and design for a specific product. The oddly-shaped bottles need a way to have a uniform surface coating done before printing.
Injection Molded Pill Bottles
Again similar to films and blow-molded bottles injection-molded bottles are made by melting plastic and thus the surface of the bottles will need treatment. Injection molding is done by injecting molten plastic into a die or mold cavity. After cooling a surface treatment and then the printing will follow.
The quality of printing and labeling is very important in the pharmaceutical industry. The print quality is dependent on a quality surface treatment of the packaging. If a person struggles to read a pharmaceutical label it can have tragic consequences.