Last month, the Manufacturers Association for Plastics Processors (MAPP; Indianapolis, IN) awarded Intertech Medical (Denver, CO) first place in its 2017 Innovation Award program for its work cell automating quality inspection, de-gating and packaging. A full-service injection molder and contract manufacturer specializing in medical devices, Intertech Medical had to wrestle with some unique molding challenges on its path to success and MAPP recognition.
Intertech had been molding a medical part with complex geometry and features that made it difficult to trace defects using conventional inspection methods and sampling. Given the part’s critical application and an expectation of zero defects from the customer, this was particularly problematic. After receiving three customer complaints within six months, it was clear to both Intertech and the OEM that a solution was needed.
To solve the problem, Intertech designed and built a machine-side, automated work cell that integrates process and quality control to achieve a zero-defect outcome. The solution primarily centered on integrated process control, automated quality inspection and the reduction of bio-burden from part handling and packaging, said the company. Rather than just adding more operators and increasing the number of quality inspections, Intertech took a leap forward in its automation and inspection technology.
Intertech already had robots, but there were shortcomings in terms of programmability and process customization. Knowing that Wittmann Battenfeld robots had a reputation for open architecture and flexibility, Intertech reached out.
To demonstrate its capabilities, Wittmann Battenfeld (Vienna) initially set up a few complete automation cells, which included robots, end-of-arm tooling, downstream part orientation stations and tray filling conveyor systems. Wittmann Battenfeld employees stayed on site for a couple of weeks to provide extensive training, after which Intertech was off and running. Its in-house engineering, automation, mold shop and maintenance department took full advantage of the newfound programmability to create a process and system that would exceed customer expectations.
“We love what we are able to do with the Wittmann Battenfeld robots,” said Kevin Clements, Director of Engineering at Intertech Medical. “The capabilities far exceed anything else we see in the market, from their Smart Removal technology to the training and support that’s available when needed. With this automation in place, our company achieved ROI on the complete automation system in less than nine months.”
Since the completion of this work cell, Intertech has had zero returns from its customer, and was ranked a preferred supplier. The design was so successful that it has been replicated in three more work cells. The company now has nine Wittmann Battenfeld robots in its plant.