Emphasis is on development of continuous manufacturing technologies that minimize manual operations to produce complex, composite catheter designs. Medical device manufacturers are anxious to replace costly hand layup of tubing sections that are contained in a heat-sealed assembly.
"Our existing space will continue to provide traditional extrusion services and serve the needs of our customers,” said Dandeneau. "The expansion allows us to support increased demand for more complex, comprehensive extrusion components and will serve as a showcase for emerging extrusion technologies available for medical devices.”
Recent technical innovations by the company include variable pitch braid with coil reinforcements, variable flexibility tubing, and a line of polymer marker bands for fluoroscopic illumination of catheter tips used in minimally invasive medical procedures. These bands reduce costs by eliminating traditional gold or platinum marker bands and offer greater adhesion to catheter shaft tips.
Technologies being investigated range from use of bioabsorbable medical plastics to materials that can be used in cryogenic surgeries.
The expansion also includes a new 6000-sq-ft Class 8 cleanroom that will be used for secondary operations such as printing, insert molding, tipping, welding and assembly for finished tube components.
When Dandenau formed the company in 1984 only one other company was actively making specialty medical tubing in the United States. Catheter manufacturing was an embryonic industry. "We only made coextruded tubing, and have always focused on higher value products." For that reason, the United States was the logical location for his expansion, which almost doubled the size of the company's physical space. Commodity medical tubing manufacturing and assembly growth is in Asia.
Putnam Plastics now has 200 employes, up from 150 two years ago. Dandeneau is targeting sales growth of 15% this year. "We have plenty of building to grow into."