Medical moulders seek ways to increase productivity

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Husky's Ultra SideGate hot runner system (left) optimises tip-to-tip spacing and can have four tips per nozzle (right).

Injection moulders working in the pharmaceutical and medical device markets have always needed to focus on quality to meet the stringent demands of their customers. But now they are also turning their attention to output and how to become more productive.

“Customers are asking for more [mould] cavities in one machine,” said Steve Lawrynuik, president of Medical and Specialty Packaging at Husky Injection Molding Systems, which makes hot runner systems for medical moulding.

In the medical sector, moulders have typically expanded cleanroom capacity and added new injection moulding machines when workload increases. Now, though, they are seeking productivity improvements, said Lawrynuik during the K 2016 fair.

Andrew Sargisson, head of sales at medical mould maker Kebo, agreed that multi-cavity moulds are increasingly being specified. This allows expansion of output with a minimal outlay on machines. By consolidating production from three or four older moulds into one new mould, the moulder can reduce cycle times and part costs, which helps answer cost concerns among end-customers.

Sargisson told Plastics News Europe about one of Kebo’s medical customers who has gone even further. Originally the customer was considering a 12-cavity mould, but then agreed on a 12+12-cavity stack mould because of the large gains in productivity without needing to invest in two machines.

“In the medical market, people think stack moulds are a new feature, but they’ve been around for 30 years,” said Sargisson on the K 2016 stand of Switzerland-based Kebo.

Some medical moulders are also still using cold runners, he said, which is like “throwing cash out of the window” because of material waste.

Using hot runners improves productivity and reduces part costs, for example by allowing multiple cavities in a more compact area.

Lawrynuik said Husky is experiencing increased demand for its Ultra SideGate hot runner system from medical moulders.

The Ultra SideGate hot runner optimises tip-to-tip spacing, which can be as small as 55mm, and the nozzle footprint is optimised for maximum mould integrity. It can support one, two or four tips per nozzle, which provides flexibility for the moulder.

The system was designed for moulders who need to produce high quality parts for a wide variety of resins where the gate is on a sidewall. Husky highlights the high gate quality achieved with Ultra SideGate, which it says is capable of producing a gate with virtually no vestige on the finished part. This, too, is an area where medical manufacturers have been placing greater demands on mould makers.

Sargisson indicated that some medical mould buyers focus on the mould cost and are reluctant to accept recommendations that would help them. For example, Kebo offers a pilot mould option which can reduce risks during mould validation. A pilot mould allows issues to be identified before the production mould is made, after which modifications become much more costly.

Husky has been growing its medical business since it bought the Swiss medical mould maker Schöttli in 2013. On its K 2016 stand, Husky showed a 64-cavity Schöttli syringe barrel mould, showcasing the high capacity and precision manufacturing Schöttli is known for.

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