No one knew it at the time, but when Nonin Medical Inc. selected Diversified Plastics Inc. to manufacture components for its fingertip pulse oximeters, a year later the business partners would find themselves facing a surge in orders because of a pandemic.
Nonin's Onyx-brand fingertip oximeters measure pulse rate and the saturation level of oxygen carried in red blood cells to detect problems like silent hypoxia, which is an early symptom of COVID-19.
Silent hypoxia is a condition in which oxygen levels in the tissue have dropped but the individual has no signs that something is wrong. Oximeters warn physicians treatment may be needed, and in the case of COVID-19, early treatment can keep patients off ventilators — and alive.
The devices are common and as simple to use as a thermometer. Nonin had the product design completed but turned to DPI for tool design to maximize the manufacturing process and yield consistent quality components.
"Just as we were getting close to going into production, COVID-19 happened. That's when Onyx product sales rapidly accelerated. Fortunately, we were already working with DPI to manufacture, decorate and assemble components of the Onyx fingertip pulse oximeters," Kristin Finberg, project manager at Nonin, said in a news release.
DPI is manufacturing all the plastic components on the Onyx fingertip pulse oximeters, including the exterior enclosure and the soft-touch material that holds the finger. Some of the parts require complex overmolding of different materials.
Nonin is sourcing product decorating and some of the assembly. Once completed, the parts go back to Nonin to add the electronics, finish the assembly and complete the packaging.
In case there is a second wave of COVID-19 in late fall or early winter, DPI is investing in additional presses to meet demand for Nonin's pulse oximeters.
Founded in 1977, employee-owned DPI is a contract manufacturer of injection molded parts based in Minneapolis that serves the aerospace, filtration and industrial markets in addition to medical devices.