Leading pharmaceutical and medical device companies are investing millions into sustainable packaging to reduce waste and environmental impact. Bayer AG’s “100 Million Challenges” prioritizes sustainable packaging, aiming for 100% recyclable or reusable packaging by 2030. New, recyclable materials are making their way into blister packs, plastic bottles, paper, and flexible tubes. Moving to sustainable materials seems inevitable, so how can pharmaceutical packaging companies harness laser-based technology to enable sustainability while ensuring safety, sterility, and compliance?
Recycled plastics often contain impurities such as dyes and chemicals that can cause batch-to-batch variations in how the polymer absorbs laser light. In context to traditional laser welding, recycled plastics result in moment-to-moment imprecision during laser absorption. Traditional laser welding heats based on time, which, when paired with the absorption variation, causes under- or over-heating depending on the types of impurities in the plastic. This compromises weld quality, increasing the defect rate in the manufacturing process.
Unlike competing technologies, Hamamatsu’s T-SMILS laser heating system heats based on the real-time temperature of the subject instead of the amount of time the laser is on the subject, as shown in the figure below. PET will always melt at the melting point of PET, acrylic at the melting point of acrylic, and so on, regardless of the type of impurity present in the recycled polymer.
Meeting a target temperature during laser heating guarantees that a sufficient, controlled melt is achieved. This solves the imprecision issues endemic to recycled polymers, resins, and small batch-to-batch variations in virgin plastics as well. Weld monitoring, real-time gap detection, and more are all enabled, eliminating the difficulties and guesswork with laser plastic welding. This Industry 4.0 instrument is ready to improve plastic welding, heating, and processing across the medical and pharmaceutical industries.
Figure 1. Plastic plate example (top), temperature montoring (middle), temperature feedback control with 320oC target (bottom).
Figure 2. Real-time gap identification using temperature monitoring & feedback.
As pharma packaging trends toward sustainable materials, one thing remains the same, uncompromised sterility. Used as an integral part of pharma packaging processes, laser welding helps maintain sterility in pharmaceutical packaging by creating strong seals that meet FDA and ISO compliance standards. Integrated into automated high-throughput manufacturing lines, precision laser welding, especially systems like T-SMILS that feature real-time temperature monitoring, provide the precision, dimensional accuracy, and repeatability needed for high-quality joining applications and temperature-sensitive products. Packaging systems rely on T-SMILS for different types of welds shown below.
Figure 3. Transparent-to-dyed welds.
Figure 4. Transparent-to-transparent welds.
Contact-based plastic welding methods like ultrasonic welding and hot plate welding can compromise the sterility of the packaging, as the instrument must make contact with the processing subject. This can be a source of error in medical and pharmaceutical packaging and medical device development, as sterility is often a requirement in this space. The T-SMILS’ laser welding instrument offers system manufacturers a stable, non-contact, vibrationless laser welding process that ensures consistent, repeatable, and sterile processing, perfectly aligned with the requirements of medical and pharmaceutical markets.
Hamamatsu’s T-SMILS laser heating system, with real-time temperature measurement functions, provides unmatched precision and repeatability, helping pharmaceutical packaging lines maintain sterility and compliance while meeting sustainability goals.
Contact our team for more details and support for your specific applications, processing parts, and use case.
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