PROJECT SHOWCASE

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Project showcase: Automation improvements for medical device manufacturing

Challenge

A medical device manufacturer in Pennsylvania received a government contract to make masks during the COVID-19 pandemic. The manufacturer converted empty warehouse space into a production facility. They worked with DenTech for a trim waste removal system and support for automation equipment.

DenTech started developing automated solutions for packaging and palletizing, but the manufacturer soon realized a higher priority. Due to machine issues that caused a lot of defective masks, production numbers were not high enough to meet the obligations of the government contract. The machines were from a supplier in Germany, and the pandemic limited how much the supplier could help the manufacturer in Pennsylvania. So, DenTech served as a consultant to identify root causes of production issues and develop fixes to reduce the number of defective masks.

Solution

The facility has ten identical machines that produce masks. Correcting one issue on one machine would correct the same issue on all ten machines, which would greatly improve production output.

To make improvements in the facility, DenTech followed a repeatable process:

  • Identify the root cause of an issue
  • Design the fix and quote the work
  • Build and install the prototype solution
  • Verify that the prototype corrected the issue
  • Replicate the solution on the other nine machines

The manufacturer has additional mask production facilities in Europe with machines that are identical to the ones in Pennsylvania. That means resolving an issue on the machines in Pennsylvania resolved the same issue on machines overseas.

Below are a few examples of solutions DenTech has implemented for the manufacturer.

Elastic cord detangler

One issue with mask production was that elastic cord got tangled as it fed through the machine. DenTech designed, built, and installed a machine to detangle the cord. The detangler fed elastic cord through a series of loops to ensure it was not tangled as it fed into the production line.

Corrected programming for sensors

Some masks came off the production line with missing rivets. The root cause was malfunctioning sensors that couldn’t detect if rivets were placed correctly. DenTech worked with the machine supplier to correct the programming for the sensors. With the sensors working properly, the number of reject masks caused by this issue was reduced by more than half, from 0.5% to 0.2%.

Improved die cutting

Part of the production process includes cutting metal strips for nose pieces on the masks. The dies used to cut metal strips wore out after two months, and the turnaround time to get replacement dies from the German supplier was several months. Rather than waiting, DenTech designed new dies and machined them in-house in Denver, PA. Two prototype dies were successfully installed on the machine, and the manufacturer ordered additional dies for the rest of the machines in the Pennsylvania facility and for facilities overseas, too.

Results

DenTech continues to work on solutions to correct machine issues. By working closely with the manufacturer, DenTech can recommend improvements to the production process and additional automation solutions.

Dentech’s expertise in problem-solving and creating custom solutions enables the manufacturer to improve its mask production process.

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Capabilities in this Project:

  • Design
  • Machining
  • Automation

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