When Australian digital diagnostics company Ellume landed a US$231.8 million contract with the US Department of Defense in February 2021 to supply its rapid COVID-19 Home Test to the US market, the secure packaging solutions installed by JL Lennard at the company’s Brisbane facility played an important role in ensuring the safe delivery of the kits.
Developed in Australia, the Ellume COVID-19 Home Test is an over-the-counter, rapid self-test which detects SARS-CoV-2 antigens. Taking only 15 minutes to carry out, the test is the first of its kind authorised by the US FDA for both asymptomatic and symptomatic use without a prescription.
The agreement included funding to support the establishment of Ellume’s U.S.-based manufacturing facility in Maryland, and the delivery of 8.5 million COVID-19 home tests that will be distributed across the U.S. in accordance with the National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness plan.With at least 50 per cent of cases being transmitted asymptomatically, Ellume’s test will play a crucial role as the only diagnostic tool authorised for non-prescription use as a screening tool in the United States that can provide accurate results in a single test.
At the time the contract was secured, Ellume founder and CEO Dr Sean Parsons said, “Our focus is enabling the U.S. to minimise community transmission and reopen as quickly as possible. We are prioritising our partnership with the US government to mobilise tests quickly and in the most impactful way. We will fulfill the order for these tests at the same time as we ramp up the output across our production facilities, creating more possibilities for retail and private institution use in the future.
This US-based manufacturing capacity would build on Ellume’s existing Australian production capacity, which would deliver 100,000 tests per month until the Maryland facility was up and running. At full capacity, the US facility will be able to produce up to 19 million tests per month.
Developed in Australia, the Ellume COVID-19 Home Test is an over-the-counter, rapid self-test which detects SARS-CoV-2 antigens.
THE BACK STORY
At the height of the pandemic in 2020, when Ellume was preparing for the global launch of its world-leading COVID-19 tests, it approached packaging equipment supplier JL Lennard for advice on how to securely package its test kits, who provided the solution in the form of the well proven Fuji Alpha 8 Flow Wrappers for the company’s new production facility in Brisbane.
Together with Bosch Australia’s Manufacturing Solutions Division (BAMS), Ellume built a state-of-the-art automated production facility to scale up manufacturing volumes of COVID-19 and other diagnostic tests.
Fast forward to February 2021 and the Biden administration selected Ellume’s COVID-19 Home Test kits as one of the key enablers to reopen the economy and help control the COVID-19 pandemic in the US. To make this happen, the US Departments of Defense and Health and Human Services invested US$231.8 million in Ellume to help scale the US manufacturing base and capacity to over 19 million test kits per month by the end of 2021.
Leveraging the global Fuji Network of Distributors, JL Lennard with Fuji Machinery (Japan) and Formost Fuji (USA) have collaborated with Ellume again to supply all their primary packaging machinery to meet this incredible production target.
David Boekemann, MD of JL Lennard, said, “We would like to thank Ellume for putting their trust in our companies and congratulate them for their monumental achievements to date and we look forward to this project being completed in record time.”
The successful upscaling of the Brisbane facility laid the foundation for Ellume’s contract win. PKN asked Steve Waters, packaging sales manager at JL Lennard, about the scope and execution of the project.
The Fuji Flow Wrappers installed at Ellume Brisbane are three FW3410B Alpha 8 and five FW3410BCX machines.
“The reason different models were supplied was that these machines could be sourced at short notice as some of these units came in from Fuji France and Vietnam. This was an advantage we had at the beginning of the project,” Waters said.
“The project kicked off in March 2020 when Ellume and JL Lennard started the conversation around how we were going to acquire, install and commission the Fuji wrappers to allow Ellume to export their product out to the US in time to meet their own deadlines,” Waters related.
By using the “Fuji Family” of worldwide distributors, JL Lennard was able to source several machines from distributors and have them modified to ensure they could handle and wrap each product correctly. Local inkjet company National Coding Technologies was engaged to supply thermal inkjet printers for each Fuji wrapper for printing the expiry and batch codes.
“The main challenge was running at higher speeds using Ellume’s existing film, a composite foil laminate, as it is very thick and difficult to seal, however, due to Fuji’s technology (induction centre sealing) we were able to reach these speeds without damaging the film and give Ellume its hermetically sealed product,” he said.
“The Fuji wrapper automatically increases the sealing temperature with any increased speed, and vice versa. This helps achieve a perfect seal, along with not burning the film at higher speeds.”
On the flow wrappers, the in-feed conveyor has an ‘attachless’ belt in-feed system, which allows for greater control over the positioning of each product in relation to the film.
Adopting this system allowed Ellume to use the Fuji Flow wrapper as a stand-alone unit or install it into an automated system (such as that supplied by Bosch Australia Manufacturing Solutions).
“A transfer unit (Delta drive) helps control the lightweight Ellume products, which allowed us to pinpoint each product correctly for wrapping. This also ensured we had a perfect, hermetic seal each time. The end sealing on each Fuji wrapper is the highly engineered box-motion end seal. The film at Ellume is thick and difficult to seal at higher speed for most flow wrappers, but with Fuji’s gearing and end-seals a hermetic seal is created every time,” Waters said.
The roll-out and safe delivery of securely packaged Ellume COVID-19 Home Test kits in the US has commenced, a testament to Australian innovation and ingenuity on the part of both the product developers and the manufacturing suppliers.
From: PKN Packaging News (https://www.packagingnews.com.au/machinery/filling-and-packaging/jl-lennard-helps-ellume-deliver-us-contract-for-covid-19-tests) Hughson, Lindy, 5 July 2021, Yaffa Media Pty. Ltd, 2021
July 6, 2021 | By: Henry Boekemann