We at Polymermedics operate dozens of injection moulding machines from some of the leading machine manufacturers. Our company serves some of the world’s biggest medical and pharmaceutical brands – working collaboratively to create solutions, finalise mould designs and bring safe & efficient products to the market. We are constantly investing in the latest equipment, skills and techniques to maximise quality, efficiency and precision of manufacturing. However, bumps on the road do occasionally appear: once we determined a rising quality issue, we were able to conquer it by upgrading our moulding machines with Piovan’s plastic conveying and blending system.
Each year, Polymermedics produces billions of plastic components. A segment of these produced components are the flip-off seals for drug vials. The colour of the flip-off is used to indicate the type of drug contained in the vial, so colour consistency of these plastic parts is critical. We produce parts in a large number of different colours and shades, so to cater for this variety, we use colour masterbatches blended with a virgin plastic material. This gives us an amazing production flexibility, but there was a risk of violating the colour’s integrity, which in the very worst case could cause the death of a patient.
“Polymermedics performs in excess of 1650 colour changes per year, so ease of cleaning of the equipment is very important”
Polymermedics performs in excess of 1650 colour changes per year, so ease of cleaning of the equipment is also very important. Since the moulding area is a clean production area, all equipment should be removed from the mould shop to be cleaned. Equipment cleaning is a very time-consuming procedure. That is why the time needed to clean it was also an important metric to consider when choosing the supplier. To speed up the process of colour changes, we had spare equipment always ready to move into the mould shop.
The moulds we have are mostly multi-cavity, and some of them are fast cycling. Almost all new moulds are full hot-runner. All of the moulding machines were equipped with granulators, mainly auger type, positioned under the mould to directly granulate the sprues and runners. Accordingly, each machine had to potentially process virgin, masterbatch and regrind materials. Moreover, some products also require a slip additive to be added to the mix. The existing blending and conveying equipment was outdated, so we decided that we needed to upgrade our injection moulding process to ensure that we continue to offer our customers the latest technology.
Polymermedics and Piovan have a long-standing relationship based on a trust, which spans over 25 years. Piovan’s product portfolio includes storage, drying, conveying and blending equipment for plastic granules. The moulding process temperature control (in terms of both heating and cooling) combined with high energy efficiency is also an important part of their products’ portfolio. This background enabled the two companies to work closely together. Through the years, Piovan developed a detailed understanding of exactly what moulding needs Polymermedics has. This was vitally important, as we had started to experience issues with one of our main customers due to quality performance. We called Piovan in to look at the areas that could be improved. Following numerous interactions, it was agreed that the following areas would be the key drivers to eliminate the issues faced:
Once the requirements and recommendations were finalised, it was decided that the next step should be for a part of Polymermedics’ employees to visit the Piovan factory in Italy. They had to examine the proposed equipment and ensure that it would meet their needs. As a result of the visit, a number of bespoke adjustments were made. We agreed for Piovan to supply the “trial” equipment for one of the moulding machines so that the operators and technicians at Polymermedics could also give their feedback and take part in the decision-making process. Our employees carried out the report that highlighted all further changes required to meet the company’s needs. The equipment was then manufactured according to the agreed design, which resulted in a fully signed-off URS: a “full package” consisting of dozens of gravimetric blenders with remote mixers, numerous hopper loaders and several new vacuum systems.
“A team of engineers were deployed and worked continuously for a 14 day period, working 12 hours a day, to meet the deadline for production to restart”
Very soon it became evident that due to the fact that Polymermedics operates a clean production area running 24/7, the installation could only be done during a shutdown period: we had to stop the machines to place the equipment. Polymermedics had an annual shutdown planned in August 2016, it meant that the Piovan UK engineers had a vast amount of work to do in a relatively short period of time. Therefore a team of engineers were deployed and worked continuously for a 14 day period, working 12 hours a day, to meet the deadline for production to restart. Once the system was up and running, an engineer was left on-site for two weeks to iron out any initial problems. He had to train all Polymermedics’ team to ensure a smooth transition from one system to another.
The relationship between Polymermedics and Piovan represents a true partnership. Piovan’s engineers were eager to understand what problems we had, in order to design a system that was capable of solving them. The equipment was re-engineered to meet our exact requirements and the success which followed was evident: the maintenance costs were reduced, colour-related complains dropped by 90%, control process was automated. A full engineering support was provided to guarantee the expected results: the planned upgrade of injection moulding machines was performed in a very smooth manner. This attention to the details led to a seamless transition from an ageing system to a state of the art, full material track, trace and handling system that delivered benefits in excess of our expectations.