29th November 2016
Rotech, the Hertfordshire designer of end-to-end coding and feeding systems, is building on the success of its RF Lite offline coder with the launch of a thermal transfer (TT) model for the pharmaceutical and medical industries.
Drawing on its extensive product handling expertise, Rotech has engineered a system with a price tag of £12-13,000 - half the cost of existing solutions for overprinting items such as pouches, blister cards and Tyvek lids.
For the first time, the RF Lite TT makes automated coding financially viable for companies who are still reliant on labour-intensive hand labelling operations. By coding direct onto packaging materials, pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers can eliminate the costs associated with label printing and application.
“The strapline for our R&D is ‘twice the speed or half the price’. With the development of our original RF Lite TIJ (Thermal Ink Jet), we dramatically reduced the cost of coding sleeves for food products. The system has been so well received since its launch earlier this year that we are now applying the same principal in the medical device sector” explains Richard Pether, director at Rotech.
The solution Rotech was offering for offline coding and customisation of medical pouches and lidding materials was available at a cost of around £25,000. Rotech’s engineers set themselves the goal of halving this figure, and the most obvious route to reducing the cost of the system was to replace the printer.
“The thermal transfer printer on our original system was designed for use as an online system, so we replaced this with a benchtop thermal transfer printer,” says Richard.
However, this was not as simple as performing a straightforward substitution as the benchtop printer was designed for printing labels on a roll. Rotech adapted the printer to enable it to code directly onto packaging substrates and used its product handling expertise to replace the label reel with a small conveyor to present the items to the printer one by one. The presence and position of the substrate is verified by a photocell, ensuring accurate print placement.
The printer is integrated with Rotech’s RF Lite feeding system, a simple, low-cost solution that takes flat pouches or packs from a hopper, feeds them through a printer, and stacks them again ready for use.
“Effectively, we’ve taken a concept that was developed for label printing and adapted it so that pouches, blister panels and lidding materials can be presented to the printhead rather than rolls of labels,” explains Richard. “By marrying a benchtop thermal transfer printer with a feeding system in this way, the result is an easy to use, affordable system that brings the benefits of automated coding within the reach of many medical and pharmaceutical manufacturers for the first time.”
The RF Lite TT can be supplied with either a 4” or an 8’ wide printer and can handle approximately 60 pouches or packs per minute.