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Sterile Filters for Tube Manufacturing

Focus on Product Integrity and Energy Costs

An impressive 15.5 billion tubes were produced by European manufacturers in 20181, the largest quantity ever achieved. Global tube consumption could exceed 30 billion. Karl Höll GmbH & Co. KG in Germany has been part to the Alltub Group since 2016 and produces laminate tubes. The focus on the highly demanding pharmaceutical market requires particularly close monitoring of manufacture, in which a highly effective filtration technology by Donaldson ensures a high degree of compressed air purification.

The Alltub Group, one of the world’s largest manufacturers, has six manufacturing plants in which it produces aluminum and laminate tubes. These have become one of the most popular types of packaging. The tube corresponds to today’s lifestyle: Slim in shape, printed with a bright, brand-defining design, a pleasant feel, safe to store and transport, and available in sizes that can hold from a few grams to over 200 g. The laminate tube’s barrier function, with thin layers of aluminum or EVOH, provides optimal protection for the contents. Films with a thickness of even just 0.006 mm preserve the contents against impacts on quality from factors such as light, oxygen, humidity, microorganisms, or external odors. The taste-neutral barrier layer ensures that volatile components of the tube’s contents, such as flavorings and active ingredients, are not lost.

This explains the long shelf life of the tubes’ contents even without the need for preservatives or other additives.

Laminate tube production line in the Alltub manufacturing plant in Germany. The modern, multi-layer laminate film can be produced in total thicknesses of 250 - 400 µm. The “digitally mastered” printing method, with the processing of the 4C files in CMYK, has become four times faster and more flexible. In some cases, this flexible tube production can take 48 hours from customer file to finished tube.

The generally applicable advantages offered by tubes today need to be viewed in a more differentiated way for the pharmaceutical and cosmetics markets. In order to meet the high-quality requirements, set by pharmaceutical and cosmetics manufacturers for tubes in a wide range of sizes and high quantities, Alltub invested in a class 8 clean room for laminate tube production in the German factory in 2018. Production on all laminate lines is ISO 15378 GMP certified.

In addition, a new 75 kW screw compressor with downstream processing using a refrigeration compressed air dryer ensures consumption-based, energy-efficient compressed air generation. The compressor’s monthly energy consumption of around 20,000 kW to generate a maximum of 800 m³/h reflects the high demand for compressed air from the tube production systems.

Jürgen Fuhrmann, Head of Quality Assurance says, “We keep a particularly close eye on the compressed air supply to the production facilities. We place the highest demands on compressed air quality. To prevent microorganisms, solid particles, humidity, and oil aerosols from reaching the final consumption points, we use the LifeTec™ P-SRF sterile filters to secure some of the production lines in the clean room.”  

Head of Production Nicolo Gagliardi explains the control technology and pneumatics of the Alltub laminate tube production line.
LifeTec P-SRF sterile filter in a P-EG 0018 housing at point of use in the clean room during tube production. Image: Karl Höll GmbH & Co. KG
“We are in constant contact with our customers in the pharmaceutical industry, and compressed air is also an important topic there. We agreed that sterile filters are helpful in providing the necessary reliability.”

Nicolo Gagliardi, Head of Production for Laminate Tubes

Filters for Product and Process Integrity With Long Service Life

The C, V, and X versions of the LifeTec P-SRF filter elements are pleated depth filters, the inner and outer liners and end caps­ of which are made from stainless steel. The borosilicate filter medium coated with PTFE and in addition equipped with a PTFE support medium.

All components meet the requirements for indirect contact with food in accordance with the CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) Title 21 and European Regulation (EC) Number 1935/2004.

The retention rate is > 99.99999995% based on 0.2 μm and > 99.99999995% based on 0.02 μm. For nano-sized particles (0.003 μm), retention is > 99.999999991%, which has been verified on the basis of DIN EN 1822.

LifeTec P-SRF Filter Elements Offer High Retention Rates & Long Service Life

Donaldson’s research and development successfully extended the service lifetime of this series of sterile filters significantly while also guaranteeing a high retention rate, which was crucial for product and process integrity. The use of the latest filter media, their innovative processing, and the optimization of mechanical and thermal stability had proven successful. This was also an important factor for those responsible at Alltub. Nicola Gagliardi says, “Changing the filter after 6 months provides a high safety buffer. The filter elements are then integrity tested at Donaldson.”

Donaldson’s expertise in compressed air purification technology is also used by Alltub Italia. The factory in Cividate al piano (BG) produces aluminum tubes primarily for tomato paste producers. The Donaldson entity in Milan helps to ensure the security of the compressed air supply on the basis of a service agreement – also using the latest generation of energy-saving compressed air filters.

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¹ European Tube Manufacturers Association (ETMA)