Blow-fill-seal (BFS), which is a process used to produce containers filled with sterile liquids is being increasingly adopted by global pharmaceutical and healthcare manufacturers, replacing traditional glass vials. BFS technology is used in a number of applications, namely in filling of ophthalmic and parenteral medications. There are different ways a blow-fill-seal product can be customized, the most common ones are labelling, printing and embossing.

Labelling

Labelling is the most common method of customizing BFS containers, it is simply sticking labels on the product. However labelling operations can be complex and come with several challenges. Firstly, it can be difficult to stick a label on a BFS container, because their surface is not straight, they can easily peel off, causing product rejects. Secondly, labels are glued into the surface of the BFS using adhesives which creates a risk of migration of harmful components into the product. Lastly, labels can also be difficult to manage because they need to be reconciled before and after each packaging run, which can take a lot of time. Labelling also leads to increased inventory levels as it is necessary to have labels stored in order to produce and customize for different markets.

Embossing

Embossing is engraving text or other type of data onto the blow-fill-seal during the BFS molding process, so it forms part of the BFS container. The advantage of this procedure is that no other substance comes into contact with the product. However, the embossed information on a BFS container is very difficult to read and can cause leaks on the surface of the container. Additionally, the embossing process is time consuming and leads to long changeover times.

Printing

There are many different types of printing of artwork into products, pad printing and digital printing are the most adopted ones for BFS containers. Pad printing is a mechanical technology where ink is moved from engravings in a cliché plate using rubber pads which are pressed on the BFS surface. Pad printing is a standard method of customizing BFS containers that enables the printing of clear and easily legible information. However, it requires a lot of physical change of parts and uses solvent based inks which are considered toxic.

Digital printing, on the other hand does not require any mechanical work, which makes it possible to change artwork in a very short amount of time because everything is digitalized. The latest technology is drop-on-demand (DOD) inkjet digital printing. Equipped with CMYK printing and UV DOD inkjet, this new technique is the outcome of a close collaboration between Graniten and Hapa. We call it the “Digital Pad Printer” (DPP) because it replaces the pad printing machine, however it is also a great alternative to labelling and embossing.

Digital Pad Printer

The Digital Pad Printer can print both artwork and variable or serialized data, using a UV cured ink that gives the most sharpened printing results. What is fascinating about this new technology is that you can change artwork in a simple click, everything is digitalized, cliché plates are eliminated, and products can be produced and customized without having any labels in stock. Furthermore, the equipment offer a lot of flexibility when it comes to small order sizes and frequent change of artwork to customize for different markets.

We believe that the Digital Pad Printer is the future of BFS customization and will enable customers to reduce their scrap levels, cut on inventory and shorten their changeover time to close to zero. If you want to learn more about this technology, please contact us.