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3D-printed Injection Molds Save Medical Device OEMs Time and Money

Freeform Injection Molding technology from Nexa3D compresses design, iteration, and validation cycle times into a matter of hours rather than weeks.

Norbert Sparrow

October 26, 2023

3 Min Read
injection molded medical device
Image courtesy of Nexa3D/SPT Vilecon

A supplier of development and manufacturing services to medical device OEMs used Freeform Injection Molding from Nexa3D to accelerate time-to-market and slash prototyping costs for a complex silicone-based IV device. SPT Vilecon explained the process in a recent press release.

Certified to ISO 13485, Denmark-based SPT Vilecon describes itself as a fully integrated provider of development and manufacturing services to the medical device industry. It offers in-house tool making and injection molding along with other manufacturing services to companies in northern Europe.

SPT implemented Nexa3D’s Freeform Injection Molding (FIM) technology to help customers shorten time-to-market on complex medical devices in demanding medical-grade materials and to expand on the range of materials that can be quickly and reliably used in prototyping and early device test manufacturing.

Tooling compatible with thousands of injection molding materials

The patented FIM process uses high-speed Nexa3D printers and xMOLD resin to print injection molding tools that are compatible with thousands of off-the-shelf injection molding materials, including reinforced high-performance feedstocks. The process reduces design, iteration, and validation cycles using end-product materials to a matter of hours rather than weeks.

molded part

The POM part with overmolded silicone was fabricated with xMOLD tooling from Nexa3D.

Medical device manufacturers are tasked with developing elaborate test protocols to ensure that the product in development is safe and meets essential requirements. If these tests are conducted late in the development process, the more onerous and risky they become. SPT Vilecon often works with silicone, a material that is extensively used in medical applications because of its chemical resistance, mechanical performance, and biocompatibility. However, silicone parts are notoriously difficult to prototype and test, since most grades need to be injection molded to achieve their full performance potential, said the company. FIM enabled SPT Vilecon to offer an alternative to a customer developing an intravenous (IV) silicone product — the use of 3D-printed tooling to perform early design and material verification at a fraction of the cost of conventional methods.

The advantages of 3D-printed tooling

The use of 3D-printed xMOLD tooling provided the following benefits, according to SPT Vilecon:

  • Injection-molded silicone parts were produced within two days, allowing early verification of key design and performance aspects.

  • Design input collected from the first tests was integrated in a second iteration that took only a couple of hours to complete. By contrast, conventional metal tooling would have taken more than six weeks to design and procure, and the adjustments needed for the second iteration would have taken an in-house tool-shop a week to complete.

  • The 3D-printed molds for the first and second iterations cost less than €2,000 combined. And the technology enabled a two-day design cycle, which is more than 90% faster than conventional metal tooling.

  • Based on input collected from the first two iterations, the design of the silicone part was approved and manufacturing of a metal tool was initiated with full confidence of part moldability and performance. The in-house tool shop built the final metal tooling in four weeks without iterations.

Robust and valid prototyping and verification are key to minimizing cost, time, and risk factors in developing medical devices, said SPI Vilecon. FIM is a new toolbox for medical device companies seeking to accelerate their innovation and obtain early verification of part performance and moldability, added the company.

SPT Vilecon said it has begun expanding the range of injection mold prototyping with silicone, metal, and ceramic materials to provide medical device manufacturers with an even wider selection of product development and verification services.

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. Reach him at [email protected].

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