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August 20, 2002

5 Min Read
First moldmaker, then molder, then cleanroom expert

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Only the clamp end of Braun's Krauss-Maffei machines protrudes into the Class 10,000 cleanroom from the outside.

Sometimes a moldmaker goes looking for a niche. At others, the niche is thrust upon him. Such was the case for Braun Formenbau GmbH, a well-known moldmaker that is now rooming-in presses in a 5000-sq-ft Class 10,000 cleanroom. How did it happen?

Located in Bahlingen, a small town in the southwest corner of Germany near the Rhine River border with France, Braun has a reputation for complicated, high-precision molds and a particular specialty in multicomponent molds. As other toolmaking shops have done, in 1997 the company expanded its mold trials operation to become a molder, primarily of shorter runs for customers of its toolmaking business.

Staying with what worked, when E. Braun GmbH Plastics and Pharma Technologies were set up as a molding facility across the street from the moldmaking shop, it was designed around what the mold customers were doing. That way it could handle customers' short runs, prototypes, and so on. Since molds were mostly made for technical and multimaterial/color parts, the molding shop was configured with high-precision machines and multicomponent technologies. Presses range from 20 to 275 tons and include three-component models.

Medical Products = Cleanroom
Several of Braun's mold customers at that time were medical equipment and pharmaceutical manufacturers. Again wanting to provide a custom solution, Braun decided to set up a cleanroom manufacturing operation at a Class 10,000 level with turbulent airflow. Products made include dialysis machine components, closures for PE infusion bottles, and caps with a rubber seal for dental and insulin bottles.


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Medical infusion bottle caps made of PE with a flexible seal are one of Braun's specialties.

The ways of using IM machines in a cleanroom environment are too numerous to count. There are hoods over individual machines, machines completely in the cleanroom environment, and machines partially in the cleanroom itself.

Braun decided to put only the clamp end of the machine in the cleanroom, a method often called rooming-in. Holger Fries, production manager for pharmaceutical components, says, "We considered the particular characteristics of the machines in all our planning." Braun chose Krauss-Maffei C Series machines, installing 65-, 80-, and 110-ton units to cover its product range.

The cantilevered clamp design of the C Series machines looks as though it was designed specifically for this application. At Braun, the clamps protrude into the room through openings in the wall, and since there is nothing at all under the clamp, there are multiple options for part removal. Fries says, "By keeping the hydraulics systems outside the cleanroom as far as possible, we have avoided potential problems." To facilitate operations, the display and the key panel of the controls are swivel-mounted so the machine can be operated from inside or outside the cleanroom.

Full-service Cleanroom
Braun did not set up the cleanroom simply to mold parts. That would not have fit with the level of service expected by pharmaceutical customers. Such customers generally specify as complete a product as possible, rather than parts. One principal reason for that is to minimize the possibility of contamination as parts are moved. Braun operates an assembly area within the Class 10,000 room so that the finished product leaves in hermetically sealed packages ready for shipping.


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Braun Formenbau continues to invest in the latest moldmaking equipment, such as these milling centers, as well as leading CAD and CAM technology.

This level of professionalism and quality has led to more growth, in both the cleanroom business and the rest of the molding operation—referred to as the Technology Center. An expansion is nearing completion that will see the total floor area increased from 27,000 sq ft to 45,000 sq ft. The cleanroom is expanding from 2150 sq ft to 5400 sq ft.

The expansion also entails considerable investment on the machinery side. The number of presses in the technical molding area will eventually increase from 12 to 27. Molding machine count in the cleanroom will go from five to 20, and assembly machines will grow from four to 12. There will be space for up to seven turnkey customer projects that include molding, handling, assembly, and testing.

Braun's idea of customer support includes having space in the Technology Center for up to three customer tests at one time. On the moldmaking side of the street, it includes extensive design capability in terms of both skilled designers and the latest version of top-class CAD and CAM software. They are particularly adept at optimizing a mold design for the type of material that will be molded.

Braun Formenbau, the moldmaking business, recorded sales of $11.5 million last year. It has 140 employees, of whom 16 percent are apprentices. Sales last year of the E. Braun molding company were about $3 million with a workforce of 37. There is, besides the best technology, an excellent team spirit among the workforce in the Bahlingen companies. This is not by chance. Founder and general manager Erich Braun says, "It takes a perfect balance between people and machines to produce top performance." The results of both companies are a strong argument in his favor.



Contact information
Braun Formenbau GmbH
Bahlingen, Germany
Erich Braun
+49 (7663) 93 20-0
www.braunform.com

Krauss-Maffei Corp.
Florence, KY
(859) 283-0200
www.krauss-maffei.de

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