Leveraging engineer-to-engineer expertise for customer automation
The complexity of medical science requires equally complex innovation from medical device designers. The engineers and manufacturers behind the devices are faced with several challenges, from repeatability, to cost and source reductions, and environmental regulations. Balancing those challenges became difficult when a prominent manufacturer of negative pressure wound therapy devices switched from manual to automated assembly.
The multi-lumen, extruded tubing components presented a real challenge because of their propensity to spiral, curve and stretch during manufacturing. The customers move to automation removed the ability for each individual component of the device to be inspected and skillfully manipulated by the assembly team.
Spectrum Plastics Group extended expertise to the original equipment manufacturer by working seamlessly, engineer-to-engineer, to align tubing extrusion and automation even though both processes occur in separate locations.
“A main area of focus for this original equipment manufacturer was on fine-tuning the automation process,” said John Brennan, plant manager of Spectrum Plastics Group, Tullamore. “We were able to bring engineer-to-engineer support from a supplier standpoint, ensuring that the medical tubing components of the finished devices would perform properly after implementing the new assembly process.”
A new measurement and winding process was developed to ensure consistent repeatability and plastics memory so that the product could be collected into rolls accurately, without twisting or stretching. The position of each lumen is critical in terms of dimension. They need to be at the exact same point, end to end. Removing those variables from the process required additional expertise in the specification.
“The customer came to us with the spec,” said Brennan, “and we redesigned it with them to capture what wasn’t detailed there and could cause problems. It’s a bit unusual for a customer to go to a supplier to adjust a spec. But working together at this level is what makes us different, we design for manufacturability. And it enabled us to create a level of repeatability and high yields that were significantly better than the previous process.”
The result of leveraging expertise has been powerful, and the customer agrees. After a recent supplier business review, Spectrum Plastics Group was rated number 1 of more than 200 suppliers.