Sponsored By

Flambeau will use a unique approach to medical molding as a platform to establish a major global presence.The Nordic Group of Companies (Barbaroo, WI) says it will invest aggressively in its newly created Flambeau Medical Markets Group in an effort to make it one of the top ten medical market suppliers in North and Central America in the next three to five years.

January 4, 2012

3 Min Read
Novel approach fuels Flambeau's medical push

Flambeau will use a unique approach to medical molding as a platform to establish a major global presence.

The Nordic Group of Companies (Barbaroo, WI) says it will invest aggressively in its newly created Flambeau Medical Markets Group in an effort to make it one of the top ten medical market suppliers in North and Central America in the next three to five years.

Phoom.gif

Clean rooms at Flambeau Medical are compact.

"First up is to organically grow our business from our existing location in Arizona," Dale Behm, newly appointed vice president of the Flambeau Medical Products Group, told PlasticsToday.com in an interview. "What we really see as a sweet spot is growing business in California. Shipping costs from Arizona are low because of the amount of empty runs going back to California."

The Flambeau Medical Markets Group was formed last year when Nordic and its Flambeau plastics unit bought 43-year-old Mastercraft (Phoenix, AZ).

The company's specialty is manufacturing high-precision parts that require multi-cavitation, tool action, or some other tooling specialty, says Behm.  Six eight-cavity cassette tools designed and produced by the company, for example, each have 800 shutoffs. Forty million components a year are produced from the tools.

In a core strength, the company has a unique approach to clean-room molding, using what it calls "clean environment manufacturing cells."

Significant space reduction

"There's a lot of cubic feet of air in traditional clean rooms with high ceilings and overhead cranes," says Behm. "What if the clean room space is 10% of what it had been? You simplify the operation and take a lot of cost out."

In its novel approach, Flambeau encases the clamping unit of the machine so the part sees a Class 8 cleanroom. The machines are equipped with side-action robots. So as an example, for those parts made in the eight-cavity cassette tools, a side-action robot takes all eight parts at a time and puts them on an indexing conveyer. The parts are instantly annealed using a quartz technology. A monorail runs over the top of the machine to remove and insert tools.

The polycarbonate parts need to be annealed to remove stress cracking that could create problems if the parts were later exposed to solvents. Behm adapted the quartz annealing technology from the blow molding industry to avoid batch annealing in an oven. Using light rays from quartz, parts are annealed from the inside out.  "By annealing the parts right when they come out of the mold, no human hands need to be involved," says Behm.

Meanwhile, the machine is accessible to all personnel, who are not required to wear cleanroom garb. Chance of part contamination is reduced. A dozen class 8 clean cells are operating at the Arizona plant.

Behm says the approach was developed about four years ago when Mastercraft Companies first entered the medical market.

The company also developed a quality process called "Signature Technology" in which pressure transducers provide closed-loop feedback control on critical cavities and a high level of process documentation. Several other services are offered, including robotic spray shielding for electronic components used in the medical industry.

Nordic/Flambeau had been looking for an acquisition candidate in the medical market, one of the strongest growth sectors in the plastics business.

Costa Rican acquisition?

"Business plans are being drafted at this time for both organic growth and acquisition growth," Flambeau CEO and Nordic President Jason Sauey, told PlasticsToday.com.

Behm says that additional capacity can be added quickly at the Phoenix facility as new business is secured. Before the sale, Mastercraft Companies owner Arle Rawlings had been actively exploring manufacturing in Costa Rica because of the large amount of medical device manufacturing now taking place there.

Flambeau is interested in acquiring existing plastics processing capacity in Costa Rica to service medical device customers already there. Other logical locations to extend manufacturing would be at identified existing Flambeau sites in Wisconsin, Ohio and England.  Flambeau currently has twelve facility locations which include Europe and Mexico.

Arle Rawlings is remaining with Flambeau as vice president of the Technology Group and business consultant.

Sign up for the PlasticsToday NewsFeed newsletter.

You May Also Like