Pharmaceutical patches with a Holiday fragrance
Even the unopened folding carton entices with a scent of cinnamon and anise. Then there is the content, which carries an aroma of spicy gingerbread. This product enjoys great popularity in China. The patch is coated with a homeopathic paste and helps infants and small children who suffer from abdominal pain and diarrhea. It is produced and distributed by Yabao Pharmaceutical, headquartered in the Chinese Shanxi province, and is manufactured on a Packing and Four-Side Sealing Machine from Harro Höfliger.
The so-called “gingerbread” patch, which contains a paste made from pure herbal substances such as roots, bark and tubers, has been available in China since 1992. It is placed on the navel. The natural active ingredient can quickly enter the bloodstream and body through the thin layer of skin at the navel since there is little underlying fat. The Yabao patch is readily available in pharmacies and costs about 1 Euro each. At first it was handmade. Today, about 150 million pieces are sold per year – a magnitude that can no longer be manufactured by hand but requires automated machine processing.
In 2007, Harro Höfliger received a development contract from Yabao. For two years, possible ways to process active ingredient paste were tested. The first attempt was the vertical slicing of an active ingredient strand of paste with a hot blade. However, this method failed at high speeds, due to the tough and sticky substance. Not until 2009, were the developers able to find a stable process: The paste was rolled out flat and the appropriate quantity applied to the patch carrier film using a punching process. This method was presented to the decision makers at Yabao who then ordered a PMK Patch and Pouch Packaging Machine. In 2010 it passed the FAT with the customer present.
The excellent service and prompt support by the Chinese as well as the German Harro Höfliger team on site in China has convinced us, and led us to order additional machines.
President, Shanxi Yabao Pharmaceutical Group Co., Ltd.
From patch production to packaging
The line’s centerpiece is the continuous packing process with the integrated four-side sealing machine PMK 300. It receives the flattened active ingredient mass from the upstream extruder. The paste is processed on a carrier material in three adjoining webs, with a width of about five centimeters each. Using a method specifically developed by Harro Höfliger, the machine punches out round active ingredient slices. The stamp and compressed air shape the sticky paste properly. A cooled climate area, which is kept at a constant temperature, prevents the stamp from becoming contaminated. Thanks to the cooled air, the paste is easily removed from the stamps and sticking of active ingredient particles is prevented. The remaining active ingredient grid is returned to the extruder for re-use. The punched out active ingredient slices are placed on two films. The first film prevents moisture, the second film serves as a carrier for the glue which adheres to the skin later. Another protective film is pre-printed and encloses the paste including the adhesive side. Now the patch is packed in a four-side sealed pouch. The finished patch is applied to a pre-printed aluminum film and closed by another film from above. An inkjet printing unit applies batch numbers and expiration dates before the completed pouch is conveyed towards the cartoner. The cartoning machine produces 200 folding cartons per minute. Each carton will contain three patches and an instruction leaflet. The option with two patches per folding carton will be processed at an output of 250 folding cartons per minute. Prior to the onward transport, a camera controls the quality and contents of the imprint. Now the patch is sealed in a light-proof and air-tight pouch – ready for transport to the pharmacies. Since Yabao is very pleased with the automated packaging process, another PMK machine was ordered in 2011. To date, downstream cartoning has been a manual process, but in 2015 these operations will also be automated. Two more complete lines will follow so that the patches can be produced on a total of four packaging lines – with automatic cartoners from Harro Höfliger and full wrapping machines from a third party supplier.