This month, Best Practices journeys to California, the home of Freudenberg Medical, a medical manufacturer that does injection molding and extrusion for its business in medical devices, components and products for minimally invasive surgery.
Carpenteria-based Freudenberg Medical does plastics processing at its factory in Baldwin Park., Calif.
The company has developed a comprehensive program, called Rapid Prototype WorkCell, for doing quick-turn tooling and prototyping. It includes a modular mold system; a 3-D mold cavity set of inserts made of steel, plastic or aluminum; a dedicated molding press; and dedicated design engineers to management the entire process.
Rapid prototyping is a valuable skill-set to have in-house — in many industries, such as medical, it is pretty much mandatory. Yes, you can use outside service providers. But speed-to-market is critical. And it needs a dedicated department specializing in prototyping, working on dedicated equipment that's not needed for regular production.
3-D printing is playing a key role in rapid tooling — and Freudenberg Medical is using that technology.
Freudenberg Medical's Rapid Prototype WorkCell can deliver custom, 3-D printed cavity inserts in two to four days, depending on the complexity. It can take longer if the customer prefers working with steel or aluminum inserts. Regardless of the material, the program delivers actual parts for review and testing — before production tooling gets cut.
As with all technologies — even sexy ones like 3-D printed mold inserts — people are the key.
Tom Diaz, Freudenberg Medical's new program engineering manager, stressed the people angle: “What makes our program special is the dedicated engineers — experienced in program management, part design and injection molding — who will manage all steps in this process and deliver samples to customers. Customers then review samples and make modifications which can be quickly implemented, and new samples produced.”
Freudenberg Medical is part of Freudenberg & Co. KG, a diversified technology company in Weinheim, Germany. Freudenberg Group got into medical device manufacturing in 2006, when the company bought Helix Medical. In 2012, Freudenberg bought MedVenture Technology Corp. Both operations brought expertise in catheters and minimally invasive systems.
Helix and MedVenture were brought into a combined brand — of Freudenberg Medical — in 2015
Also in 2015, Freudenberg Medical picked up a majority stake in Hemoteq, which makes surface coating technologies for medical devices. The company also holds a 50 percent share of two joint venture companies, VistaMed, a maker of catheters and catheter components, and Cambus Medical, a manufacturer of metal hypotubes for catheter systems.
The ability to deliver quick physical samples can set a company apart — this month's lesson in Best Practices.