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Spang & Brands’ key to medical molding success? Focus, focus, focus

Twenty-five years of injection molding nothing but medical products, and no sign of change in the future; that, says Friedrich Echterdiek, managing director at injection molder Spang & Brands, has been a critical ingredient in the recipe to the company's ongoing success. Echterdiek spoke with PlasticsToday during last week's Medtec trade show in Stuttgart, Germany, where his company exhibited.

Matt Defosse

March 31, 2011

3 Min Read
Spang & Brands’ key to medical molding success? Focus, focus, focus

Injection molder Spang & Brands is not a large company, with 60 injection molding machines, but it isn't after rapid growth, emphasized Echterdiek. "We see continuous and controlled growth of about 10% per year. We just acquired land next to our facility so we're set for expansion when we need it." The company recently purchased three new molding machines, and actually had just ordered another the day before we spoke. "The delivery times are getting too long for injection molding machines, so you need to plan ahead," he said, echoing many processors' concerns of late.  

As you'd expect from a company so focused on the medical market, the injection molder's offerings to the medical market are many: inhalators, inserts (trachea), dental pipettes, syringes, hollow needles, puncturing membranes, implant parts and components for keyhole surgery, componentry for infusion and blood bags, transfer and connection systems as well as assembled componentry and ready-for-sale systems.

During Medtec, Echterdiek showed us one of the company's recent highlights, a mixing and dosing systems for bone cement. These sets are used in orthopaedic surgery. After developing and applying different types of plastics- including TPU, TPE, TPV and others-a product design was found which eased the dosing procedure in the operating room. The molded parts must not exceed very tight micro-tolerances and must withstand constant load while guaranteeing the required cleanness, hygiene and safety for the use with, on and inside patients.

The fully automated and manual assembly and packaging of the parts and the components - from pre-production to just-in-time batch sizes, from small series to million-piece batches - takes place in cleanrooms of various classifications. Testing stations with 3D control technology and visual and tactile control support quality assurance. The 60 molding machines, a mix of hydraulic and electric ones, are housed in cleanrooms and controlled atmosphere environments, and are almost 100% fully automated, said Echterdiek.

The company builds its own molds, noted Echterdiek, and said that its strength is its focus on medical coupled with the art-to-part capability. "We develop products with our customers and are able to help influence the material selection," he said. "Customers are very open to this (input); they welcome our feedback and are really very excited about the possibilities available with plastics," he added. "We offer the entire range, from molds to the final product. The systems developed in cooperation with our customers and produced by us are extremely complex; we control the entire value-added chain."

Two-component molding ("not just the simple soft-touch TPE grip") is a Spang & Brands specialty, he said, and highlighted a part at his stand that is set to be a winner for the molder. The part is a cap for an infusion bottle. It includes a TPE molded cap, with a specially formulated TPE/polyolefin compound then molded into the center of the cap; needles pass through this special compound. Echterdiek said the processor is set to mold 30 million of these in 2011, and double that output next year. —Matt Defosse

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