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Portugal has a storied moldmaking tradition that dates back to the beginning of the 20th century, when companies in the town of Marinha Grande, about 95 miles north of Lisbon, started manufacturing molds for glassware rather than importing them. After World War II, plastic injection molds gained a foothold and, with the inevitable ups and downs, that has continued ever since. Automotive OEMs have been reliable customers; medical device manufacturers, not so much. Muroplás, located in Muro-Trofa, about 130 miles north of Marinha Grande, is the exception that proves the rule.

Norbert Sparrow

August 4, 2014

3 Min Read
Combined moldmaking and injection molding puts Portuguese company on medtech map

Portugal has a storied moldmaking tradition that dates back to the beginning of the 20th century, when companies in the town of Marinha Grande, about 95 miles north of Lisbon, started manufacturing molds for glassware rather than importing them. After World War II, plastic injection molds gained a foothold and, with the inevitable ups and downs, that has continued ever since. Automotive OEMs have been reliable customers; medical device manufacturers, not so much. Muroplás, located in Muro-Trofa, about 130 miles north of Marinha Grande, is the exception that proves the rule.

Muroplas-devices-350.jpgFounded in 1989, Muroplás initially produced precision parts for the automotive industry. Shortly after setting up shop, however, "domestic companies that needed components for infusion systems challenged us to produce parts," says Dinis Baptista, International Sales/Information Systems. The company never looked back, and has been a national pioneer in plastic injection molding for medical device OEMs since the 1990s. Medical technology applications now represent 90% of the company's business, and it has cemented its reputation by investing in R&D and new technologies, and embracing change.

Unlike many molding companies in Portugal, which historically have tended to specialize in specific activities—tooling design, polishing, the fabrication of precision molds, and so forth—Muroplás chose to invest in its own machining department and build molds as well as provide injection molding services.

"We believe that combining the conception and manufacture of molds with injection molding of precision plastic parts offers our customers unique benefits," Dinis Baptista, International Sales/Information Systems, told PlasticsToday. "The use of high-speed machining technology and a dedication to improving the form, function, and manufacturability of molds has allowed us to provide medical device manufacturers with the best of both worlds: accuracy and precision at less cost," adds Baptista.

The company operates Class 7 cleanrooms on site for the production of infusion, transfusion, and hemodialysis kits. It runs Krauss Maffei and Negri Bossi molding systems in its 4500-sq-m production space. Muroplás also has developed an IT system to help maximize the production of precision parts for medical applications. One investment that has contributed to its success is the purchase early on of PowerMILL CAM software from Delcam plc (Birmingham, UK), which it has used to develop its own range of medical devices. Muroplás carries on a tradition, in fact: Back in 1983, a Portuguese company was the first European moldmaker to install CAD/CAM technology, according to industry association Cefamol.

The virtues of vertical integration

Contrary to common belief, the major reason suppliers of injection molding services incorporate moldmaking and mold repair into their portfolio typically is not a matter of economics but delivery time, according to Delcam. Time and reputation is lost when a company has to wait for a mold to be repaired or parts shipment is delayed because molds have not been delivered within the planned timeframe. Being able to implement small changes or improvements to the mold on site also improves customer service, and intellectual property ceases to be an issue when molds are built in house, says the company.

Muroplás is always attuned to the needs of its customers and continues to invest in the necessary resources to produce complex molds and optimize production, says Baptista, and that is the simple secret of its ongoing success. "R&D is an obsession at Muroplás," says Baptista. "We exist for our customers, and we are proud to have forged a relationship based on quality."

Norbert Sparrow

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

About the Author(s)

Norbert Sparrow

Editor in chief of PlasticsToday since 2015, Norbert Sparrow has more than 30 years of editorial experience in business-to-business media. He studied journalism at the Centre Universitaire d'Etudes du Journalisme in Strasbourg, France, where he earned a master's degree.

www.linkedin.com/in/norbertsparrow

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