GE Plastics has introduced in-house co-injection processing expertise for the healthcare industry. This processing technology enables application designers and developers of healthcare packaging to overcome limitations of mono-material solutions.
“A number of healthcare packaging trends, including demand for enhanced clarity and greater emphasis on patient and caregiver safety, have highlighted the drawbacks in mono-layer solutions such as traditional glass and plastics,” said John Davis, technical manager, Healthcare, GE Plastics. “To help our customers in the in-vitro diagnostic (IVD) and pharmaceutical industries address these limitations and meet changing market needs, we built on our extensive processing and materials technology resources to provide a broader approach to barrier packaging.”
The co-injection blow-molding process enables crystal-clear, virtually unbreakable Lexan* HP polycarbonate (PC) resins to be integrated with traditional barrier materials to deliver healthcare packaging applications that solve the performance challenges of glass and conventional plastics. The result is a sandwich of two Lexan HP resin exterior layers and an interior barrier layer. Pharmaceutical and IVD packaging such as diagnostic vials, culture vials, and drug containers can benefit from the excellent clarity, autoclave sterilization capability, potential for advanced hemocompatibility and low protein binding1, and impact resistance of Lexan HP resins, combined with the gas and/or moisture barrier properties of conventional barrier plastics, such as amorphous nylon or cyclo-olefins.
Implementation of a co-injection blow-molding system at GE Plastics’ Polymer Processing Development Center (PPDC) in Pittsfield, Mass. was completed to assist in the development of materials and applications within the healthcare industry.
Healthcare Packaging Evolves
The healthcare packaging industry is demanding new materials solutions to address trends that include greater patient and provider safety through breakage resistance, error reduction with unit dose packaging, and more consistent sterility. Additional needs include adequate protection and maintenance of the drugs or body samples contained in the packages. Other trends are impacting conventional plastics: the move away from aseptic filling and towards terminal sterilization, increased autoclave temperatures, and demand for enhanced viewing of package contents.
Owens-Illinois (O-I) HealthCare Packaging Inc. is an excellent example of a company utilizing GE’s Lexan HP resin to respond to these trends. “Our proprietary multi-layer technology (MLx) has been used to produce co-injection blow molded solutions for the healthcare industry since 2001,” stated Dawn Nowicki, Life Sciences category manager at O-I. “The co-injection blow-molded plastic healthcare bottles offered by our company provide consistent application performance including clarity, impact resistance, and barrier. Ongoing technology development is supporting the continued growth of applications in the marketplace.”
To better support new resin solutions for O-I’s technology and others in the marketplace, GE Plastics brought co-injection processing expertise in-house. The equipment located at GE Plastics’ PPDC enables efficient evaluation of multiple resins when combined during the co-injection blow molding process. The PPDC also supports performance characterization of barrier, autoclave sterilization, and drop impact capabilities.
GE Plastics worked with three prominent equipment/tooling companies – Uniloy Milacron for the UMIB 85 injection blow molding machinery, Big 3 Precision Products – Abramo Division for the tooling, and Kortec for co-injection technology and system integration. The system facilitates the evaluation of materials in the co-injection process including, control over the thickness of the core/skin layers along the length of the container, thus distributing the barrier material where it is most beneficial. In addition, the ability to maintain mechanical properties such as impact strength and the creation of a core layer that is free from voids in the proximity of the gate.
Scott Ludwig, director of Sales for Kortec said, “Our close work with Uniloy Milacron, whose robust injection blow molding machinery platform provides the flexibility and control required to integrate multi-material processing technology; Big 3 Precision Products – Abramo Division with their decades of experience with injection blow molding tool design and construction; and GE Plastics with their materials and processing expertise, allowed a true multi-business team effort to optimize the use of GE’s Lexan HP resins in this integrated system. It is exciting for Kortec, as the primary systems integrator on the team, to adapt our proven co-injection technology to the injection blow conversion process. The program led to the refinement of an integrated system that promises significant new application possibilities in the medical and pharmaceutical packaging segments.”