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Arburg Demos Medical In-mold Labeling Application at NPE

Both the centrifuge tube and label are made of polypropylene, facilitating recycling.

Norbert Sparrow

March 20, 2024

3 Min Read
Arburg Allrounder 520 A injection molding machine
Image courtesy of Arburg

A medical in-mold labeling (IML) application will be showcased by Arburg at NPE2024. First presented at Fakuma in 2023 as a proof of concept, the compact turnkey production cell anchored by Arburg’s electric Allrounder 520 A "Ultimate" press will produce a centrifuge tube with label on the NPE show floor.

IML is standard for packaging products, but the process is rarely used in medical manufacturing, said Arburg in its announcment. The concept is all the more compelling because both the tube and label are made of polypropylene, thus promoting sustainability and adding value for customers in the pharmaceutical and medical sectors.

Moldmaker Kebo, in-mold labeling specialist MCC Verstraete, automation developer Beck, and vision system supplier Intravis contributed to the joint IML project.

Reduced wall thickness

In addition to facilitating recycling, the mono-material construction and integrated processing of the tube and label contribute to the stability of the tube, enabling a reduction in wall thickness, if needed. The process also eliminates secondary operations, such as bonding and printing. No adhesives are required and there is no waste caused by contamination with liquid color.

Engineered for cleanroom use

centrifuge tubes

The electric Allrounder 520 A "Ultimate" is designed for ISO Class 7 cleanroom use and has a clamping force of 165 tons (1,500 kN). The ready-to-use 15-ml PP tubes are produced in an eight-cavity mold from Kebo at an approximate 10-second cycle time. Servo-electric drives ensure precise and reproducible mold positioning in the press, and a label adjustment head from Beck ensures that the labels are precisely aligned and applied. An integrated camera system from Intravis visually inspects the finished parts in real time. In a real application, the tubes could also be screwed together and packaged in tubular bags in the production cell, added Arburg.

Related:Arburg Debuts New Allrounder Injection Molding Machine at NPE2024

Also worth noting:

  • The IML print-to-cut distance is only around 0.08 in. (0.2 mm) for the centrifuge tube application. With a wall thickness of only 57 micrometers, the labels must be precisely positioned in the mold cavities, and equally precisely aligned and applied. A label adjustment head equalizes the manufacturing tolerance to a few hundredths, which is an important requirement for functionality and significantly reduces quality fluctuations and rejects.

  • A scale on the scratch-resistant label indicates the exact fill level, which can be relevant for insulin pen and medical measuring cup applications, for example.

  • A temperature-sensitive element can be included that monitors interruptions in the cold chain. If the temperature of the filled tube exceeds 7°C, for example, the thermo-chromic printing ink irreversibly changes in appearance.

  • Additional information related to recycling and warehouse management can be added to the product using a QR code.

  • In the future, it is also conceivable that process, quality, and patient data for each individual part will be 100% traceable via an RFID code.

NPE2024 visitors can see the system in operation at booth W3743. The event returns to the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL, on May 6 to 10.

About the Author(s)

Norbert Sparrow

Editor in chief of PlasticsToday since 2015, Norbert Sparrow has more than 30 years of editorial experience in business-to-business media. He studied journalism at the Centre Universitaire d'Etudes du Journalisme in Strasbourg, France, where he earned a master's degree.


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