Medical Devices Sector: Medical equipment manufacturing shows symptoms of growth

Despite the adverse impact of the Covid-19 crisis on many industries, it has failed to flatten the growth curve for medical devices producers who are successfully meeting the demand for critical medical equipment, says Angelica Buan in this report.

Healthcare sector pumps up machine demand

The healthcare system has witnessed a major disruption since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. For one, demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical devices during this period has outpaced supply. Health resources are channelled towards securing medical equipment supply and in reinforcing the Covid-19 response. At the same time, the medical technology industry is counted upon to fill in the demand for PPEs, ventilators, test kits, respirators, and other critical medical supplies.

For the plastic injection moulding industry, it is clear that it has an important role to play in bridging the demand-supply gap, and in producing top of the line PPEs to effectively contain virus spread. At this time, demand for injection moulding machines has risen.

Medical Devices Sector: Medical equipment manufacturing shows symptoms of growth

Indeed, demand for injection moulding machines are at its peak. One such machine maker Sumitomo (SHI) Demag has recently reported machine order increases. It said that it has maintained a healthy order book in the first half of 2020, compared to the first half of 2019.

During the first six months, the value of incoming orders for machines produced in Germany and China rose by almost 25%, the Japanese-German manufacturer said, adding that the packaging and medical technology sectors account for most of the orders.

Likewise, demand for all-electric machines is also rising sharply, so the company has to increase its production capacities in its IntElect series. As a result of stable sales, SHI Demag expects to post a 17% increase year-onyear, in overall incoming orders for 2020.

Stocking up the market with high-tech masks

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has specified the types of masks to be worn to obtain the optimum protection as worldwide demand for masks surge.

Medical Devices Sector: Medical equipment manufacturing shows symptoms of growth

German machine manufacturer Arburg has begun making high-tech masks, following its production of protective glasses on its Allrounder machines at its Lossburg headquarters in mid-April.

The face masks, which Arburg has been producing since May, are moulded from LSR (liquid silicone rubber) and PP. About 3,500 of these multifunctional high-tech masks are expected to be produced daily under series production conditions, Arburg said. Gerhard Böhm, Arburg Managing Director Sales, said that they have since been getting specific requests for the masks from hospitals and nursing homes from all over the region.

Arburg additively manufactured the first prototypes with its Freeformers. The LSR component and mould simulation was carried out using Sigma Engineering’s Sigmasoft software. In a record time of only around five weeks, its partners Polar-Form and Foboha built the corresponding injection moulds for the LSR and PP components, signalling that Arburg can start series production in Lossburg. The companies Ewikon (cold runner) and Männer (hot runner) were also involved in the implementation of the mould technology; other partners involved are Barth Mechanik (gripper) and Packmat (packaging technology), while the raw material for several 10,000 masks was sponsored by chemicals groups Wacker and Borealis.

Medical Devices Sector: Medical equipment manufacturing shows symptoms of growth

The multifunctional product consists of a soft LSR mask and a firm PP shield with eyelets for attaching elastic bands. In the middle there is a standardised connection with a hole. The opening is sealed with a flow gate to protect against infection when doing regular daily activities. In the next expansion stage, filter housing can be fitted on the opening.

The masks are designed for multiple uses and can be easily sterilised. The temper-free LSR material of type Elastosil LR 5040 is suitable for food contact applications, and has been tested for biocompatibility. In addition, the LSR has good sealing properties, a high tear resistance and can be easily sterilised.

Arburg expects to produce at least 15,000 or more of these masks per week in a two-shift operation. Two electric machines are being used for this purpose. An Allrounder 570A with a clamping force of 2,000 kN produces the LSR masks at the Arburg Training Centre using a four-cavity mould from Polar-Form, while an Allrounder 470 E Golden Electric with a clamping force of 1,000 kN and a two-cavity mould from Foboha simultaneously produces the associated PP shields at the Customer Centre.

The larger machine operates with an LSR dosing system from Elmet and a six-axis demoulding robot from Kuka, which removes the flexible masks from the mould and places them on a conveyor belt.

In the second machine, the PP shields are handled more easily by a linear Multilift Select robotic system. Finally, the PP shield is manually placed on the silicone mask with interlocking. This is completed with the corresponding elastic bands and packed. By using a temper-free LSR, this step can be carried out without disruptive production stops caused by the time-consuming and energyintensive tempering of the component, Arburg said.



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