The success story of Sartorius began in 1870 when Florenz Sartorius opened a small, precision-manufacturing workshop in Göttingen. Thanks to his short-beam analytical balance, he revolutionised work at that time in research laboratories. The basis for the industrial production of separation and filter technology at Sartorius was formed half a century later by the diaphragms developed by Richard Zsigmondy. Today the Sartorius Group is a leading international pharmaceutical and laboratory supplier, comprising the two divisions of Bioprocess Solutions and Lab Products & Services. In 2014, the technology company achieved a turnover of 891.2 million euros and currently has over 5,500 employees. The Bioprocess Solutions division comprises the focal areas of filtration, fluid management, fermentation and purification, and it focuses on production processes in the biopharmaceutical industry. The Lab Products & Services division is involved primarily in the manufacture of laboratory instruments and consumables. Sartorius has its own production sites in Europe, Asia and America, as well as sales subsidiaries and local agencies in more than 110 countries.
When it comes to packing its sensitive products, the company has been relying for years on packaging solutions from MULTIVAC. A R 230 thermoforming packaging machine had been used up to then for packing the Minisart® syringe filters, which are available in many different pore sizes and with various hydrophilic or hydrophobic diaphragm materials, and which are used to separate microorganisms and particles reliably from fluids, air and other gases. However, the packaging system was at 100 percent capacity. Lothar Brüggemann, Department Manager at Sartorius Stedim Biotech GmbH, explains more: “The current specifications for pack quality and cutting could no longer be met by the existing machine. It was also not possible to load all the filters automatically. Also the loading of the boxes via a simple filling station did not function properly.”
Before a new packaging solution was procured, there were many demands on MULTIVAC’s consultancy expertise. The new packaging machine had to be able to pack the various different filter sizes reliably and the boxes for the end-of-line packing had to be automatically filled. Lothar Brüggemann describes the requirements as follows: “The individual process stages had to be performed reliably - in other words, thermoforming of the PET lower web, loading of the filters, sealing of the Tyvek® film to the thermoformed lower web, marking of the upper web by an inkjet printer, and finally the placing of the counted products into a box. Process reliability and quality have absolute priority for us when packing, particularly at high throughput.”
Sartorius decided on the R 535 thermoforming packaging machine in the MULTIVAC Clean Design™. Its GMP-compliant machine design enables it to be cleaned easily, while meeting the highest level of hygiene requirements. In the interests of reliable line clearance, the area for product processing is strictly separated from the area of the machine equipment. Transparent enclosures with large doors protect against environmental influences and, thanks to perfect overview of the process, they increase the security of the packaging procedure against any products being lost.
The thermoforming packaging machine, designed for high output and absolute precision, forms the core of the packaging line: the rigid film is thermoformed in the forming station, and the filters are then loaded automatically into the pack cavities. The lower web is sealed to pre-printed Tyvek®, which is then printed with batch data. The packs are cut into single packs by means of a complete cutter, and they are then placed automatically into boxes by a handling module. The space-saving H 051 stainless steel automation module was completely integrated for this purpose into the enclosure of the packaging machine. The 2-axis propulsion unit, which is equipped with dynamic linear motors, attaches its suction grippers to the packs while they are still in the complete cutter, and it then picks them up and places the complete cycle precisely into the box.
In order to prevent problems with electrostatic charges and contamination of the surfaces, Sartorius uses ion rods and a system for particle suction. This is because the new packaging line is located in a cleanroom to ISO Class 8 with an adjoining low-risk area.