A redesigned, lower-cost vacuum tank aimed at making operations easier for medical tubing makers was showcased at the Plastec West/Medical Design & Manufacturing West shows, held Jan. 29-31 in Anaheim.
Conair Group Inc. also touted improvements to its 18-month-old MedLine puller/cutter line for small-diameter medical tubing.
``The vacuum tank redesign is a dramatic change,'' said Bob Bessemer, downstream extrusion product manager for the supplier of auxiliary equipment based in Cranberry, Pa. ``There is nothing on the market similar to this.''
The changes on the Conair HT flood-cooling tank include an all-new, stainless-steel upper tank with external water-level hand controls that permit adjustments with the tank closed and under vacuum; a redesigned telescoping overflow tray; and guide rollers inside the tank that flip up and out of the way to allow easier access for tube stringing.
``We are trying to make it easier for operators to make a better, more repeatable and more accurate tube,'' said Bessemer. ``Most vacuum tanks are not designed for microtubing, but for straws.''
The interior tank also was redesigned to eliminate exposed threads where bacteria and bacterial cell wall fragments can become lodged, and ball valves and hoses beneath the tank were relocated to make it easier to clean.
Bessemer said Conair also is changing the lower portion of the tank and hopes to be able to charge about $5,000 less than the $40,000 tank it replaces, by using different adjustment mechanisms instead of costlier bearings.
In addition, a closed-loop, precise automatic vacuum controller allows users to adjust vacuum levels in the tank with a digital potentiometer. Users also can operate the tank controls remotely with a hand-held interface panel.
Conair's third software upgrade on the MedLine puller/cutter - designed for microbore tubing for heart and brain catheters - increases the number of lumens, or hollow channels, that can be made in tubes from four to eight.
``You can control the air going into each hole and control the dimensions of eight lumens without losing speed or accuracy,'' Bessemer said.
The puller/cutter has two separate servomotors to drive the puller and the upper and lower belts and to adjust the outside and inside diameters of the tubes periodically. ``You are going to get more accuracy because of the two servodrivers, and eliminate speed variation,'' he said.
``This is the heart of the small, precision tubing extrusion lines. We expect it to become the leader in two to five years,'' as companies validate their processes as required by government regulations.