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Challenges of medical molding highlighted at Engel event

Challenges of medical molding highlighted at Engel event
It was a beautiful 90° day in the neighborhood, as more than 80 people made the trek to Corona, CA, on April 8 to attend Engel's Medical Day event. They were rewarded with an opportunity to garner insights from several speakers addressing themes of relevance to molders working (or wanting to work) with the medical device sector and to view a trio of Engel's molding machines running medical applications.

It was a beautiful 90° day in the neighborhood, as more than 80 people made the trek to Corona, CA, on April 8 to attend Engel's Medical Day event. They were rewarded with an opportunity to garner insights from several speakers addressing themes of relevance to molders working (or wanting to work) with the medical device sector and to view a trio of Engel's molding machines running medical applications.

Medtech veteran Harry Hamme set the tone for the day by putting the medical plastics market into perspective. Within the more than $300 billion global medtech market, medical plastics will represent $34.9 billion by 2016, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 7.2% between 2011 and 2016. "Medical plastics hit 3.5 billion pounds at the end of 2010 and will grow to about 4.4 billion pounds by 2015," said Hamme. "The most significant growth in the next five years will be in thermoplastic engineering resins and thermosets," he added.

That's the prize. Now, how do you get into the game? Hamme had some pointers. Specifically, he went into some detail on what medical molders need to do to satisfy their customers amid a shifting business environment. Hamme should know: he spent more than 20 years managing global capital equipment purchases and sourcing strategies related to injection molding for Fortune 500 medical device manufacturer BD. His insights were well received and are detailed in the article, "Four key inputs medical device OEMs want from contract molders."

Engel Medical Day in Corona, CA

Engel's own Joachim Kragl, Director of Advanced Molding Systems and Processing, North America, explained the value of process know-how in maintaining a competitive edge in medical molding. In particular, he showed how the use of dryer heat can reduce melt energy requirements by as much as 25% and how a double-flight barrier screw can increase recovery rates.

Kragl concluded his presentation with an interesting perspective on smart plastics. In particular, Kragl gave a brief overview of a technology that allows the integration of an electrically functional polymer foil in an injection molded part. The foil is vacuum preformed and overmolded via a conventional molding process. The end result, however, is anything but conventional, as the component has the potential to replace mechanical parts, such as rotary switches, and significantly reduce cost. Disposable diagnostic devices are one application.

Innovations in mold manufacturing and part validation

"How many times have you started a mold before product design is finished? You too, huh?" said Bill Muldoon, President, NyproMold, who discussed innovations in mold manufacturing and validation. The pressure to accelerate time to market will tempt some to put the cart before the horse, but plenty of tools are available that can achieve the same result without flirting with disaster. In Muldoon's estimation, for example, the use of industrial CT scanning for part validation is "one of the biggest innovations in the past 15 years."

First article inspections can take days using conventional techniques; with CT scanning, it can be done in a couple of hours. Nypro makes the technology available through its 3D ProScan division. PlasticsToday reported on how the 3D CT scanner can help customers to achieve first-to-market advantage earlier this year.

Other speakers at the event included Paul Hauck of Liquidmetal Technologies Ltd., John O'Donnell from Kinetics Climax, and Jeff Hershey, Marketing Manager, Business Unit Medical, Engel North America.

Attendees also had an opportunity to view some of Engel's molding systems in action. The company featured three of its molding machines—the e-victory 310H/50W/50V/160 combo, e-motion 440/220T, and e-mac 310/105—running medical applications.

The e-victory and e-motion molders reprised their roles from K 2013, with the former the clear star of the show. It ran a Hack Formenbau four-cavity drip chamber mold producing a three-component hollow body part with integrated filter in a one-step process.

Norbert Sparrow

Norbert Sparrow is Senior Editor at PlasticsToday. Follow him on twitter @norbertcsparrow and Google+.

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