Special K: Medical injection molding takes center stage at plastics industry’s premier show

  • Medical molded parts at K 2019

    Molding machine builders like to display medical applications at trade shows because they highlight the precision, quality and spotlessly clean operation of their equipment. Medical device OEMs are as demanding as they come, and for good reason: That part you’re molding, literally, is saving lives. There is no such thing as “good enough” in the medical molding space.

    Here is a selection of injection molding machine makers that will be showcasing medical applications at K 2019, which pitches its tent in Düsseldorf, Germany, from Oct. 16 to 23.

    There will be others and we will feature them here and in our K 2019 Advisor e-newsletter in the weeks ahead. Stay tuned!

  • Engel at K2019

    To shrink the cycle time molding a housing for a medical device, Engel (Schwerberg, Austria) implemented a two-step process, proving, the company said, that sometimes more can be less. It will showcase the process at stand C 58 in hall 15 during K 2019 in Düsseldorf, Germany, in October.

    Cooling time is a key consideration when molding housing parts, explained Dr. Georg Steinbichler, Senior Vice President of Research and Development. “Since the wall thickness cannot be decreased for stability reasons, conventional one-component production leaves no opportunity to reduce the cycle time,” said Steinbichler. “But in the two-component process, we inject two thin layers, each of which quickly cools. Since both injection molding steps are carried out at the same time, overall production efficiency increases.”

    At the K, Engel will demonstrate the process using an eight-cavity mold from Hack Formenbau on a cleanroom version of its electric e-motion 310H/170W/160 press.

    The machine is equipped with a vertical indexing shaft with four positions: The first for injection molding the bodies, using a transparent polypropylene from Borealis; the second for cooling; the third for applying a second layer of a green-colored polypropylene to the pre-molded parts; and the fourth for a viper 20 speed robot to remove the parts. The linear robot reaches down to remove the eight housing parts from the closed mold, another factor contributing to the extra-short cycle time, said Engel. 

    The servo-electric, two-component mold is the first to use newly developed software from Engel. It allows servo-electric movements, such as core pull, to be controlled in the same manner as hydraulic systems. “We’re paving the way for increased use of servo-electric molds,” said Dr. Gerhard Dimmler, Senior Vice President of Product Research and Development. “They are more precise in many applications and allow for completely oil-free production when combined with all-electric injection molding machines."

  • Sumitomo at K2019

    Designed specifically for mass manufacturing medical plastic components, the 180-tonne IntElect S machine that Sumitomo (SHI) Demag Plastics Machinery GmbH (Schwaig, Germany) will exhibit at the K is built for high speed, precision, repeatability and cleanliness.

    The machine is suited for extremely narrow tolerance applications requiring cycle times between 3 and 10 seconds. The mold space has been designed in such a way as to prevent the ingress of contaminants; moreover, lubricants are not needed, making the IntElect S machine GMP compliant and suited for use in cleanroom environments. The press achieves impressive results in sustainability, energy efficiency and total cost of ownership (TCO), according to the company. 

    “We have conducted extensive machine and part life cycle durability tests for the IntElect S,” said Product Manager Peter Gladigau. “These tests have confirmed that the enhancements we have made to our high-performance drives clearly increase machine lifespan and, consequently, improves TCO.”

    Clamp spindles were tested under extremely harsh conditions, added Gladigau, and showed no evidence of visible wear after millions of cycles. “The capacity of the IntElect’s energy recovery system has not only improved energy efficiency but also extended the longevity of electrical components. Improved temperature control of the machine’s spindles, motors and inverters all help to guarantee safe operation of the machine, even in the highest performing applications,” said Gladigau.

    Sumitomo (SHI) Demag will demo the machine molding pipette tips in a 64-cavity mold in a production cell at stand D 22 in hall 15. An associated automation system will remove the pipettes from the mold and place them in corresponding racks.

  • Wittmann Battenfeld at K 2019

    Wittmann Battenfeld (Kottingbrunn, Austria) will highlight two medical applications at stand C 06 in hall 15: A high-speed EcoPower Xpress molding PET-based blood tubes and a MicroPower 15/10 designed for micro-molding in a cleanroom environment.

    The EcoPower Xpress 160/1100+ with a 1,600-kN clamping force will be equipped with a modified high-performance screw to meet stringent PET plasticizing requirements. It will run a 48-cavity mold supplied by Taiwan-based Pass Card and will be equipped with a drying hopper mounted above the injection unit.

    A new high-speed Wittmann robot will remove the blood tubes from the mold and place them in transport boxes. The robot also controls a box exchange device, which removes the full box and replaces it immediately with an empty box, ensuring an uninterrupted production process.

    The MicroPower machine with 150-kN clamping force will mold a 2-mg retaining ring for miniature medical tubing from polycarbonate in an eight-cavity mold supplied by Austria-based Wittner.

    The machine comes with a rotary unit, an integrated Wittmann Battenfeld robot and camera for comprehensive parts inspection. Following removal and visual inspection, the parts are transferred to transport containers, separated according to individual cavities.

  • Haitian International at K 2019

    Haitian International (Ebermannsdorf, Germany) will bring its third-gen technology to K 2019, delivering greater efficiency and productivity, according to the company.

    In addition to the world premiere of its new electric injection units with one, two and four spindles, the company will showcase its high-precision Zhafir Venus III press producing polypropylene-based medical parts. The machine reportedly achieves up to 70% energy savings, compared with other models.

    The part will be molded under a laminar flow box from cleanroom manufacturer Max Petek at stand A 57 in hall 15.

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