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September 4, 1998

5 Min Read
Clean oil yields environmental and economic benefits


Since installing Filtroil oil filtration units on nearly all of its 38 high-speed Toshiba, Engel, and Sumitomo molding machines, Medical Plastics has realized savings in downtime, man-hours, and materials.


Last summer, the Environmental Nature Center (ENC) of Costa Mesa, CA was thrilled to receive a donation of $2000 from Medical Plastics, a division of Allergan (Santa Ana, CA), a $1.3 billion, technology-driven, global healthcare company serving specialty pharmaceutical markets. The donation was an environmental achievement award presented by Allergan's Environmental Health & Safety group to an employee at the company's Medical Plastics plant, and presented in his name to ENC. The employee: Bill Messemer. He's a master mechanic at Medical Plastics. Messemer recommended that oil filtration systems be installed on his company's molding machines. Fortunately for Medical Plastics, and for the people of Costa Mesa, management listened.


We found that there was a problem with the aluminum pumps on the machines just by doing the oil analysis.

Messemer has been at Medical Plastics for only three years. He formerly worked at Cimco, as a maintenance supervisor. "We used to use oil filtration carts here at Medical Plastics," Messemer recalls. "You push it from machine to machine. It's better than nothing, but by the time you get it to the machine, the oil's too dirty. You're lucky if you can get down to 5 µm with a pushcart oil filter. I first saw the Filtroil at Cimco. It works down to a .10-µm particle size. We were looking at other types of oil filtration systems where I used to work, but we got better results from Filtroil. There's a lot of investment in equipment . . . $200,000 for a molding machine, $150,000 for a mold . . . why throw that money away?"

He continues: "With an older machine you change the oil every week for three weeks, then every 90 days after that. We sent the oil out for analysis and found aluminum in the oil at my old place. We found out that there was a problem with the aluminum pumps on the machines just by doing the oil analysis. And we got two new steel pumps free from the machine manufacturer out of it."

Messemer sent the machine oil at Medical Plastics out for analysis and didn't like what he saw in the results. Medical Plastics molds Allergan's pharmaceutical eyecare packaging products on its 38 high-speed Toshiba, Engel, and Sumitomo molding machines. Most of its molds are multicavity unscrewing molds from Ivanhoe, many with Ivanhoe's own hot runner manifolding and hot runner controls from MSI Controls. The machines range up to 300 tons, and they run the molds six or seven days a week through all three shifts. About 10 of them are closed loop machines with servovalves, which cost Medical Plastics about $2000 to replace. That's $2000 each. And each of its closed loop machines had, on average, three servovalves. Its servovalves are very sensitive to oil contaminants, which can, in time, destroy them. Filtroil units cost less than $1000 each. Filtroil filter elements cost about $30 each, with volume discount price breaks. Messemer got management's ear.

He describes management as being progressive and environmentally conscious. "This company is really green. We even recycle our paper." He says that his supervisor, Mike Schott, bought right into the idea. The project started in 1996. "Is oil a liability or an asset? That's the main thing," Messemer says. "We formerly had to store it, haul it, dispose of it, but no longer. Now we keep it in the plant. It's become a valuable asset to our company. When we sell a machine, we can suck the oil out of it and put it in a new machine. It's better than new oil. New oil is filthy, full of carbon flecks from the refinery. And riggers don't like shipping a machine with oil in it anymore. If there's an oil leak out here, they know that the California Highway Patrol will take them in."

Messemer also reminds us that oil costs have risen. "Oil was $1.70/gal in the '70s. It's $6.20/gal here now. We don't have to change the oil any more."

Raymond Gow, who is with Allergan's Environmental Health & Safety group, was walking through Medical Plastics one day, saw Messemer adding the Filtroil units, and asked what he was doing. Gow listened. He wound up recommending to the awards committee that Messemer receive an environmental achievement level II award, citing him for his dedication and initiative in finding a way to reuse a valuable natural resource.

In his recommendation, Gow detailed the savings in downtime, man-hours, and materials that could be achieved by no longer having to change the oil. He also calculated the number of filter-element changes required to clean the oil and maintain its purity annually, while factoring in the addition of oil required to make up the small amount of oil loss during filter element changes, and found it all to be very economical. Also, Gow noted that Medical Plastics used to purchase two or three servovalves each year, and he projected a five-year savings of around $20,000 by not having to change the valves, thanks to the oil filters. The committee saw to it that the $2000 award went to ENC in Messemer's name. Medical Plastics had only nine Filtroil units left to buy for its machines when IMM was there.

Even though he had prior experience with the Filtroil systems, Messemer says one thing surprised him. "I put one on a machine I was having servovalve problems with. I took an oil sample every week and saw the particle count going down, and down, and down. Then suddenly, I saw it going higher. Then it went down, then up again. So I talked to the oil company. We found out that the oil was so pure, it was attacking sludge buildup on the wall linings of the tank, and buildup in the hoses, too. You see that a lot on an old machine. The oil was cleaning the machine."

His recommendation is short and sweet. "Keep your oil clean. It saves you so much trouble and money."

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