Field report: Dordan unveils cleanroom thermoforming for medical packaging

Woodstock, IL, a small town 50 miles northwest of Chicago, may be best known as the filming location for the 1993 Bill Murray comedy classic, Groundhog Day. While there’s something to be said about the comfort of same-old, same-old as in the movie where every day repeats itself, that’s not part of nearby Dordan Manufacturing’s plans for growth. After years of consideration with exInside Dordan cleanroom with Aric and Chandler Slavinperience in retail, electronics, automotive, and healthcare packaging, the custom thermoformer committed to adding medical cleanroom packaging capability to its portfolio in 2019.

It’s a bold, but natural step for the nearly 60-year-old, family-owned company, which is ISO 9001:2015 certified for the design, manufacture and distribution of custom thermoformed packaging.

On a visit to Dordan, PlasticsToday met with Marketing Manager Chandler Slavin and her brother Aric Slavin (seen inside the cleanroom), the company’s newly named General Manager, who are third-generation owners. That was followed by a tour of the facility including the spotless new cleanroom that’s fundamental to the company’s future growth.

The two siblings practically grew up in the company run by their father Daniel Slavin, CEO, who had taken over from his father Edward in the early 1970s. Daniel moved the company in a more progressive direction with the introduction of computer-aided manufacturing (CAM)/computer numerical control (CNC) machine-produced tooling and the early adoption of microprocessors.

Now it’s the next generation of Slavins who will help manage the company’s legacy of producing high-quality, highly engineered packaging into a new market that’s growing more than 6% yearly, according to industry reports.

Dordan thermoformers production floor 488 pixels
The side-by-side thermoformers on the main production floor.

“The medical packaging market draws our interest because it aligns with our core capabilities of design and manufacturing excellence and complements our corporate culture,” says Chandler. “Medical device companies value suppliers that are as committed to their product as they are to theirs. They want a supplier that is nimble and agile, a supplier that has a history of long-standing partnerships with customers built on trust, respect and loyalty.”

Dordan’s thermoforming competency in related markets gives the company a high degree of assurance that the growing pains into a new direction will be minimal.

“We already have healthcare and non-cleanroom medical customers, so we are familiar with the design and quality needs of the industry,” Chandler points out. “By constructing an onsite cleanroom, fully committing to the medical market is a natural progression for us. We have opportunities for cleanroom packaging with these existing customers and are excited to further support their packaging needs for sterile medical devices and kits.”

A stretch goal

However, it is not without challenges that will stretch the company in several directions.

“This new capability requires a significant investment in equipment, facility, training, and talent, as well as the ancillary equipment necessary for validating the process and the part,” explains Aric.

The stringent and unique quality requirements of the medical market mandate tighter quality control than, for example, retail packaging.

“Medical packaging typically requirDordan new syringe trayes a much higher level of attention to detail, starting at the predesign phase all the way through to the completion of the production tooling,” says Chandler. “Each stage of the medical packaging developmental process is very well thought out with a fundamental understanding of our customer’s needs and requirements, and those of the end customer—the healthcare practitioner. Medical thermoformed parts need to be consistently and repeatedly produced, and the design, tooling, and production process needs to be quantified and qualified for part safety, performance, and quality.

“The process and procedures are all about mitigating risk through checks and balances. It’s critical that not only that the cleanroom environment be certified, monitored and maintained, but the handling of all materials entering and exiting the cleanroom, and the management of all cleanroom personnel, be done with the goal of minimizing particulates and potential for down-stream bio burden.”

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