Technical Articles

FlexPackCon 2023

Since its inception nearly 100 years ago, flexible packaging has seen tremendous growth due to its ability to meet packaging needs at the lowest cost and with the least amount of material usage. The modern era of flexible packaging began in the early twentieth century with the introduction of cellophane, a transparent “wonder” film which enabled the development of large distribution channels of pre-packaged goods and changed consumer lifestyles and buying habits. New processes and materials have continually advanced flexible packaging technology. In concert, the scientific understanding of materials and polymer processing has progressed. This paper traces the history of flexible packaging, describing major developments in technology and the science behind them. Flexible packaging has constantly evolved to meet new demands and challenges. This bodes well for the future as the industry address its end-of-life shortcomings and moves towards amore circular economy. Learnings from the past, guided by improved scientific insight and engineering principles, can be leveraged to adapt flexible packaging to changing market, societal and regulatory demands.

Flexible intravenous solution containers (IV bags) were introduced to the marketplace in the early 1970s. These new containers were designed to replace glass IV bottles and were quickly adopted widely for delivering medical solutions to patients throughout the world. The 40 years during which commercially available IV solutions in glass bottles were used, the healthcare industry grew dramatically with better patient outcomes while also reducing operational costs.

These early developments then led to the rapid expansion of new medical devices that have been further developed to improve healthcare and reduce overall costs of the products and devices. It is not an exaggeration to suggest that the medical device industry was founded on the development of the flexible poly (vinyl chloride) (PVC) plastic IV tubing and bag. After the IV bag product lines grew to serve many markets, a new unmet need was discovered for an aseptically produced premixed drug container. This article will review how a new film was developed and used to produce the required aseptically made IV premixed drug product. It was, after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave “clearance to market”, a ground-breaking product, never before thought possible for the highly FDA-regulated and controlled industry.