Anaheim, Calif. — Diversified Plastics Inc. has doubled the size of its environmentally controlled room and added an injection molding press as well as automation capabilities to give customers a lower-cost alternative to clean rooms.
The expansion initially helped a customer get clearer parts for its medical filtration device.
"Our regular molding area is very clean, but clear parts were getting tiny specks in them. We started molding them in the cleaner environment, and they went away," Diversified Vice President Annette Lund said at the Medical Design & Manufacturing trade show, held Feb. 6-8 in Anaheim.
The environmentally controlled room, which was expanded to 2,775 square feet in December, also has been used to produce components for a polypropylene spirometer, which measures air flow in and out of the lungs, as well as a suture and overmolded hand-held medical instrument.
"We added on because our customers that need that room are growing very rapidly," Lund said. "It's mostly for medical parts that don't need to be done in a clean room, but they want a cleaner environment."
Based in Minneapolis, Diversified is an employee-owned contract manufacturer serving the medical, filtration, aerospace and industrial markets. The company was co-founded in 1977 by William Cullen, who retired in 2000, and James Dow, who retired last year and is now chairman.
Diversified started with 13 employees and three injection molding presses. The company still employs seven of those 13 early hires and has grown to 80 employees working on 16 injection presses in a 53,000-square-foot facility.
It generates annual sales of $15 million, according to the latest Plastics News ranking.
Company officials see new opportunities with the larger environmentally controlled room, and the capacity and flexibility in scheduling it offers customers needing isolated manufacturing spaces.
"Customers want their parts as clean as possible without paying the clean room prices. This keeps costs down for them," Lund said. "They get better quality without having to pay an arm and a leg for a clean room. The price difference can be considerable depending on the part."
While similar to a clean room, environmentally controlled rooms are less stringent and don't have high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, which reduce any dust and dirt to submicron sizes at a 99.975 percent efficiency rate. Instead, Diversified is using positive air pressure to keep particulates from flowing into the room. Temperature and humidity also are carefully controlled.
"When you open the door, it doesn't let air in; it pushes it out," Lund said.
Resins are kept outside the room and piped to the press to limit dust. Employees wear gowns, sterilized shoes and gloves, and use special floor mats to stop dirt from getting into the room.
"We started with this knowing we can add the HEPA filters, and it could become a clean room if our customer wanted it," Lund said. "Or, if we have a customer who needs it, we can put a tent over one of the presses, and it would be even cleaner because of the environmental controls around it."
And if a customer needs to produce a high-volume product, Diversified has a robot that can be programmed to remove parts from the press.
"This was a big investment," Lund said, noting the new 250-ton horizontal press alone cost about $250,000.
In addition to this controlled area, Diversified has two ISO Class 8 clean rooms and an environmentally controlled assembly room.