FFS-Medical-Pharma-PackagingPolystyrene and PVC have historically been the material of choice for a vast range of medical and pharmaceutical packaging applications – from diagnostic kits and sterile barrier trays, to form-fill-seal unit-dosing pods, and much more. But health and safety concerns regarding the presence of Styrene and Ethylbenzene in PS and the inclusion of PS in California’s Proposition 65, as well as the presence of chloride and heavy metals in PVC, coupled with lack of recycling options and sustainability challenges, have resulted in initiatives across various industries to replace these common medical & pharmaceutical packaging materials.

Previous attempts to develop replacements for PS and PVC in these applications with traditional PP or PET have resulted in solutions that cost more, fall short on performance, cause processing issues or require significant capital expenditure to modify existing equipment until the development of XPP.

XPP Medical Solutions offer safe & sustainable PS & PVC replacement solutions in the form of a mono-material rollstock solution that maintains all of the positive attributes of current PS and PVC materials – processing, function, quality, cost – in the form of a safer and more sustainable solution that offers drop-in process compatibility for PS & PVC replacement made easy.

From thermoformed medical kits & trays to form-fill-seal unit dosing pods and blister packs, our XPP-M polypropylene rollstock offers a a safe, sustainable, and cost effective drop-in material solution compatible with existing systems & process for PS & PVC replacement made easy. Continue reading to learn more about the attributes of this revolutionary new material:

Jump to: 

1. Process Compatibility
2. Improved Material Performance
3. Enhanced Safety
4. Inherent Barrier Properties
5. Improved Sustainability
6. Resource Efficiency

1. Process Compatibility:

XPP offers enhancements to key functional properties including enhanced stiffness and controlled shrinkage, allowing for processing on existing thermoforming and FFS platforms and without the need for significant equipment modifications or capital expenditure: 

– Compatible with existing trimming & cutting stations
– Minimal CAPEX for equipment & tooling modifications
– No loss in cycle times or through-put
– Controlled shrink similar to PS

2. Improved Material Performance:

Higher stiffness attributes than typically observed with traditional polypropylene results in similar characteristics to current PS packaging functionality & processability:

– Maintains PS “snapability” & “scorability” for FFS
– Increased flex modulus/stiffness of 450,000 Psi vs 300,000 Psi for PS
– Controlled shrink similar to PS mitigates downstream processing issues
– Compatibility with laser etching processes

3. Enhanced safety: 

Health and safety concerns regarding the presence of Styrene and Ethylbenzene in PS and the inclusion of PS in California’s Proposition 65, as well as the presence of chloride and heavy metals in PVC as a result of Proposition 65, have added pressures to transition  packaging solutions from PS & PVC to a healthier alternative.

With patient safety remaining the top priority for Polypropylene is the ideal material solution, as it is a very clean material and possesses excellent organoleptic properties for food packaging solutions. However, from a processing standpoint, material solutions developed in PP have fallen short. Due to enhanced stiffness attributes that offer compatibility with existing platforms, XPP now offers a solution that complies with Proposition 65 guidelines for material replacement as well as delivers from a processing standpoint.

Produced from clean polypropylene materials, XPP-M solutions offer a clean, safe & simplified solution with no use of additives, mineral fillers, or specialty coatings providing:

– Compatible with medical sterilization processes including EtO and autoclave
– Compatible with disinfectants including hydrogen peroxide & steam sterilization
– Produced from non-toxic polypropylene materials
– Free from BPAs, Styrene & Ethylbenzene
– Compliant with Proposition 65 guidelines
– No migration concerns & excellent organoleptic properties for ingestible products

In addition to pressures to transition to more sustainable & recyclable packaging solutions, 

4. Inherent Barrier Properties:

Polyolefins naturally possess excellent Moisture Vapor Transmission Rates (MVTR) but typically require the use of barrier materials such as EVOH to achieve the oxygen barrier protection needed for shelf-stable and extended shelf-life food packaging.

XPP is a mono-material polypropylene rollstock solution that offers improved OTR & MVTR barrier performance in comparison to other commercial packaging materials without the use of specialty barrier materials, coatings, mineral fillers or additives.

These improvements to barrier properties present the opportunity to extend the shelf-life of barrier medical and pharmaceutical applications like transdermal patches, diagnostic devices, alcohol & iodine swabs, prefilled syringe trays, unit dosing pods by providing improved protection from oxygen and moisture permeation offering:

– 90/90% improvement in OTR/MVTR vs traditional PP
– 100/150% improvement in OTR/MVTR vs PS
– Comparable MVTR vs PET/PET-G
– Comparable MVTR vs PVC
– Coextrusion with EVOH for high barrier shelf-stable applications

If the application requires high-barrier protection, EVOH can be incorporated into meet shelf-life targets using Impact's multi-layer coextrusion capabilities

5. Improved Sustainability: 

The demand for plastic waste reduction and more sustainable packaging solutions have increased global concerns regarding the sustainability and recyclability of single use packaging. While this pressure has not yet extended to OEMs & converters producing medical & pharmaceutical packaging in the same way that it has in food packaging, it is worthwhile to plan for this eventuality and keep sustainability & recyclability in mind when developing new packaging solutions particularly considering the long development cycle & validation process for new medical & pharmaceutical packaging projects. 

Impact's XPP medical polypropylene rollstock solutions allows converters and brand owners the opportunity to economically and effectively replace PS & PVC in medical & pharmaceutical packaging a more sustainable solution, without sacrifice to performance or resulting in added cost. The light-weight PP-based solutions promote improved sustainability profile & a reduced carbon footprint vs heavier materials like PS, PVC & PET/PET-G resulting in:

– Less CO2 equivalents by weigh
– Less solid waste by weight & reduced material consumption
– Lower fuel consumption & lower emissions

In addition, because XPP-M solutions are produced from polypropylene materials, the result is a more recycle-friendly solution. By comparison, PS has been designated by How2Recycle as "not yet recyclable" and PVC is not recyclable at scale, therefore recyclability is not viable. In comparison, XPP-M Polypropylene Solutions are more recycle-friendly, offering:

– Identifiable as RIC #5 for both enhanced barrier & high barrier (with EVOH)
– Structures pre-qualified with How2Recycle
– Non-mineral filled structures maintain PP density & ability to sort for recycling

6. Resource Efficiency: 

The light-weight and low-density characteristics of XPP-M material solutions offer a 12% density reduction in comparison to PS and a 30% density reduction in comparison to PET. This density reduction results in a higher yield (more parts) during thermoforming processes, reduced cost and reduced material consumption in comparison to PS, PVC and PET/PETG:

– 1,000,000 lbs PP = 1,120,000 lbs PS
– 1,000,000 lbs PP = 1,310,000 lbs PVC
– 1,000,000 lbs PP = 1,340,000 [+] lbs PET/PET-G

For thermoforming and form-fill-seal processes, this increase or decrease in linear feet directly impacts part yield. Holding all other variables constant such as gauge, width and quantity (lbs), a decrease in material density correlates to an increase in output, or part yield, and vice versa. 

For more information on XPP Medical Solutions for thermoformed & form-fill-seal medical & pharmaceutical packaging, download the XPP-M Product Sheet:

Download the Product Sheet!