Wittmann Technology Works for Polymermedics

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St Austell-based Polymermedics Ltd is cementing its reputation as the ‘go to’ contract moulder for high-volume medical mouldings – from micro to mid-size in weight, and all produced in Cleanroom Class 7,8 and 9 environments.

Wittmann Battenfeld injection moulding technology has been working with the company for many years throughout its 45-year history. Wittmann UK has been serving the business before and after the Wittmann acquisition of Battenfeld on April 1, 2008. Now a newly supplied fleet of five new Wittmann 240t SmartPower injection moulding machines is helping take the company’s success to new heights.

Adrian Walters was the commissioning engineer on some of the Battenfeld TC40 machines still in production at St Austell some 25 years on, and still going strong. Walters notes the reliability of the legacy technology but adds that the past fifteen years have seen Wittmann make many radical improvements to the injection moulding machine design. ‘Our new machines – and the SmartPower models in this order – are much more customer-focused; delivering a small footprint and big energy savings together with a large platen area. In my view these are the top three points today’s moulding machine customer is now looking for,’ he adds.

Wittmann’s new machine designs – call it the ‘Form Factor’ or ‘User Interface’- are now winning friends and paying dividends. The shop floor testimonials from machine setters and operators are helping win repeat business. Simple design elements can make a world of difference to working operations: The clear lines of the SmartPower machine also enable easy Quality Control clean down at the end of production cycles and colour changeovers.

Even before any machine is considered for a procurement shortlist there are important management and investment hurdles to clear: ‘For a customer such as ourselves – in a legacy building and with limited space – it’s a relatively simple issue’, says Polymermedics Operations Director, Neil Skyba. ‘Basically, we need to source the smallest possible machine footprint – but with the largest possible platen and tooling area. Electronics, connectivity and other issues come after that. Wittmann went to the front of the shortlist for all those reasons.

The small footprint of the SmartPower was therefore ideal for us,’ says Skyba. ‘It is a full one metre shorter and also slightly narrower than any alternative supplier. And again, the robot and machine together as a single package with quick delivery was very helpful.

Neil Skyba says that ‘we are now used to speedy turnaround on a number of issues with Wittmann UK including after-sales services such as training. One phone call to Adrian does for everything in the order and afterwards, concerning the moulding machine, automation, conveying, guarding, process control and also – in this case – our need for customisation.

Polymermedics needed specially made screws and barrels in order to produce the weekly millions of tamper-proof medical seals in a large variety of colours from multi-impression tooling. Accordingly, Wittmann designed and supplied special geometry ColourMelt mixing screws & UniMelt screws for both colour mixing and standard mixing versatility.

A view of some of the new Wittmann SmartPower injection moulding machines at Polymermedics, St Austell, Cornwall

In addition – and for this particular order – Neil Skyba had advanced information from ‘under the hood’ in order to whet his appetite: Adrian Walters had provided Polymermedics with a free-of-charge energy use report on the company’s injection moulding performance. The analysis – a standard practice for any Wittmann UK enquiry for IMM- was based on a number of the existing moulding machines in the business, including competitor machines and legacy Battenfelds.

Walters was able to show that the new Wittmann SmartPower machines would offer not just increased performance in terms of quality, safety and space-saving but would also help deliver a drastically reduced electricity bill. More than 70% energy savings in fact would be immediately provided on like-for-like tooling & cycle times.

Skyba explains that this factor also enhanced Wittmann UK prospects. ‘Many of our medical customers require very expensive set-up costs; not just technical, but in terms of the legal and administrative outlay that must be spent on the process validation for all their contracted manufacturing.

He adds that ‘once the process validation investment is made, we need to recover it – via profitable manufacturing over the long-term. The low-running cost of any equipment helps us pay back the capital outlay in the short term – and helps accelerate our journey into profit for the medium and long term. When you add these factors to the longer lifespan and fault-free operation of these machines, the purchasing decisions become much easier.

Polymermedics will be exhibiting at Medical Technology UK, March 13-14 at the Coventry Building Society Arena.

Read more from Wittmann Battenfeld here.

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