Trek Diagnostic Systems, East Grinstead, has further reduced the labour cost, increased efficiency and throughput speed for packing trays of antibiotics used in laboratory diagnostic tests. The second purpose-built flow-wrapping line supplied by Paramount Packaging Systems further improves the handling, checking and packing operation to maintain high quality and throughput.
Trek supplies its Sensititre brand trays to medical and veterinary laboratories, where they are used with patient samples to determine the most effective antibiotic to counter an infection. The 150 × 100mm trays, each with 96 ‘wells’ carrying a different antibiotic, are classed as clean products, rather than sterile.
“Previously a considerable amount of handwork was involved, loading and unloading the trays between the dryer, labelling, addition of desiccant and flow-wrapping,” explains Darren Frost, production manager at Trek. “Now the line is automated, with minimal handling of the product, the risk of contamination is reduced and the aluminium lid is no longer necessary.”
After filling and drying, rows of trays are loaded manually onto the infeed of the packing line, where they are inverted by a belt conveyor system and phased using a Fuji FFS150 feeder into the flights of the main conveyor. The entire line is covered by perspex guarding under which microbiologically filtered air is introduced to provide gentle air movement and prevent entry of dust.
The first operation is print-apply labelling, to identify each tray along its side with a bar code which includes lot number, expiry date and product code. Label presence and code is verified automatically by a camera system linked to a reject system which, for fail-safe security, rejects every tray unless a positive accept signal is received.
Next, a desiccant sachet is cut from a reel and automatically placed on the tray, its presence is again verified and the tray is rejected if the desiccant is not present.
Wrapping then takes place on a Fuji Alpha series FW3410 BSB machine. This is an inverted flow-wrapper, with the film feed from below, allowing the trays to be handled upside down with the longitudinal seal formed above the tray allowing heat from the sealers to dissipate vertically away from the product.
The long dwell Sealing system provides the extra dwell time necessary for secure, hermetic seals on the high barrier aluminium foil/polyethylene laminate employed by Trek. Line speed is up to 100 trays a minute.