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LMA adds three presses to start captive molding of its medical devices

Concerns about protecting its intellectual property as well as the opportunity to keep a better control of costs has prompted medical device manufacturer LMA International to bring the injection molding for its LMA Airway products in-house. This first stab at captive molding is underway with three presses from machine manufacturer Engel.

PlasticsToday Staff

July 13, 2011

3 Min Read
LMA adds three presses to start captive molding of its medical devices

Four issues drove the decision to bring molding capacity in-house, according to William Crothers, LMA International's CEO: "To protect our intellectual property; to realize maximum reduction in the costs of goods and, by doing so, to be more competitive in the marketplace; to aid in future research and development; and to ensure a greater reliability of supply for our customers."

LMA designs, manufactures and markets its laryngeal mask airway range of supraglottic airway devices, and its LMA Atomization devices for the administration of medication. Supraglottic refers to the part of the larynx above the glottis (which is where the vocal cords are). During surgery, physicians use LMA's laryngeal mask airway devices to ensure proper respiration, ventilation, and support to the airways of patients. Its LMA Atomization devices are used to deliver medication to patients without the need for needle injections. LMA Intl. will mold and manufacture its LMA Airway products with the new molding machines at its first captive injection molding facility, located in the Kulim Hi-Tech Park in Kulim, Kedah, Malaysia. The devices are molded from flexible PVC.

Systems engineering organization MEM Inc. (Madison, CT) helped LMA specify equipment for and organize its new captive molding capacity. MEM specified three tiebarless victory combi injection molding machines from Engel for this project: two 330-ton machines and one 200-ton press. Each machine is equipped with a viper servo robot, also made by Engel. "Although there are a couple of manual assembly steps involved in producing the finished products, we were hired to design the entire manufacturing phase of the process for LMA International, including automated assembly equipment that dispenses a UV-curable adhesive and performs robotic assembly of the critical components of the assembly," explained Rabon Schall, MEM's engineering manager. "Also, MEM's president, Herb Dalo, created modifications to the part design, which eliminated some clinical issues as well as facilitated automated manufacturing."

MEM Inc. also assisted with the design of LMA's entire manufacturing facility in Malaysia.

Molds made in U.S.
LMA had new molds made for the projects, tasking Advance Mold & Manufacturing Inc. (Manchester, CT) to design and build the tools. Made of stainless steel, each is a 4+4, two-shot mold. Each also is fitted with a hot-to-cold-runner capable of running two flexible PVC grades with two different durometers. "Due to the complications of the part design, this project called for molds with rotating cores and sequencing complexities-complex molds for running complex parts," commented John Corraccio, AM&M's program manager. "The PVC had to move pretty quickly through the machine, since PVC easily tends to degrade. But, because of the part's shot-size, we were able to have fewer shots in the hot runner system at any given time. That reduced the residence time. The advantages of this two-shot part design are in decreased manufacturing costs, as well as in improved part quality."

Hot runners for both molds were supplied by Mold-Masters. The molds both are large, but the tiebarless design of the molding machines allowed for lower tonnage presses. "I knew the actual part shot size wouldn't be that large, but I thought at first that the size and complexities of the molds would require at least 500 tons of clamping force. That didn't turn out to be the case," explained MEM's Schall. Added AM&M's Corraccio, "When most people speak of 'machine tonnage,' they usually people think you need a lot of it, so you don't blow-open the clamp due to the molding surface area involved, and because the mold has to fit between the tiebars. In this case, though, with these tiebarless machines, we were not imprisoned by tiebars. So, this tiebarless feature reduces the overall mold costs, and the cost of the machines, as well."

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