There are two types of tubes used in the pharmaceutical industry: soft (made from plastic) and hard (made from aluminium). This machine handles only hard tubes which are more suitable for products sensitive to oxygen as the bottom part of the tube can be rolled up after every use thereby expelling any trapped air, which is not the case for soft tubes.
The operation cycle has 4 stages: positioning of the tube, filling, sealing and coding, and ejection. The empty tubes are first positioned in the hopper in the upper right-hand part of the machine and are then fed downwards to be positioned with the bottom part (which is open) facing upwards.
It is important to de-aerate the gel/cream/ointment i.e. remove all air pockets in order to minimise the risk of deterioration by oxidation and to have the correct amount of product in the tube. This is done by passing the product through a roller mill which is the small white piece of equipment in the upper left-hand side of the machine.
The intended contents (cream, gel or ointment) are then filled into the tube which is then sealed by curling the end several times and then embossing the required information (usually the batch number and expiry date). Finally, the tube is ejected gently for transportation to a cartooning machine or cartooning station so that it can be placed together with a patient information leaflet inside a carton box.