Opportunities are growing in the medical injection molding market and a systems approach can help molders take advantage of those options.
North America's aging population, rising health-care expectations and an increase in self-administered care are creating these opportunities, industry veteran Fred Humbert said at Plastics in Medical Devices 2011, held April 11-13 in Huron.
Humbert serves as medical business development director for injection molding equipment maker Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. in Bolton, Ontario. At the event, he cited part and gate quality, reduced part cost, sustainability and risk mitigation as drivers for medical molding.
A typical systems approach for the medical market would start with resin testing, then continue with flow simulation and analysis and tool design and optimization, Humbert said. Next, a processor would need to design melt-delivery systems, install a purpose-built injection molding cell and review process optimization. The project would wrap up with product monitoring and a sustainment program so that capital is maintained, he added.
Humbert also advised processors not to install an injection molding machine in a medical site's clean room. Keeping the machine out would reduce the chance for contamination of parts.
As a successful example of this process, Humbert referred to an intravenous breather cap made by ICU Medical Inc. of Salt Lake City. The cap is made of polypropylene and produced in a 32-cavity mold. Mold designer Tech Mold Inc. of Tempe, Ariz., worked with ICU and Husky on the project.
The breather cap previously had been made with a 16-cavity mold that required a high cycle time. ICU wanted to increase production and wanted a six-second cycle time with direct gating.
By using the process Humbert described as well as a Husky H/MED AE all-electric injection molding system and the firm's Ultra Sync 3 valve gate technology the project delivered a cycle time of less than five seconds.