At the co-located MDM West and Plastec West events in Anaheim, CA, earlier this month, a panel discussion on plastics injection molding discussed the ways in which elements of Industry 4.0 and technology, in general, have improved operational efficiency and product quality. In a session titled, "Solving Today's Challenges in Injection Molding for the Medical Device Industry," the three panelists, all of whom have extensive molding and manufacturing experience, shared their perspectives on Center Stage. One of the most significant challenges, according to the first speaker, Alan Sundheimer, Vice President of Development and Technology at PMC Smart Solutions, is figuring out how to deal with an endless stream of data.
Data, data, and more data. What are we supposed to do with it?
Injection molders are constantly bombarded with information. According to Sondheimer, the challenge is in identifying the data that matters without bias and then using it effectively.
According to Sondheimer, “we must challenge all of the data — both the data we want and the data we don’t want — and correlate that with output.”PMC Smart Solutions, a full-service contract molder and manufacturer serving the medical device and automotive industries, evaluates components and assemblies using plastic injection molding services advanced mold simulation software and materials databases. He explained that the information is fed into the molding process, which is used to develop parts and tooling.
“On the day we are awarded the contract, we 3D print the components and begin analyzing the measurement system. Sundheimer explained that this helps to establish trust in the measurement system. It also spits out information. And then there's the instrumentation, which includes pressure sensors, temperature sensors, and so on. Secondary operations, such as ultrasonic welding, pad printing, and packaging, are also included in the mix. In order to achieve the goal of data collection and correlation, plastic injection molding Sondheimer explained that data storage and retrieval would be a challenge.“There are enormous amounts of data — we need to standardize how we score and evaluate it.”He explained that this necessitates the use of experimental techniques, in which PMC Smart Solutions has developed expertise.
“We gather data on a cycle-by-cycle basis."We're collecting inputs and outputs for each and every injection molding shot, every process, and every cycle to help ensure that we can monitor the process involved," Sundheimer explained.
He went on to say that automation can aid in increasing confidence in the data and the output. In Sundheimer's opinion, "all the data in the world will be of no use if we don't know that the output is good."
System integration allows for process optimization.
Every manufacturer's goal is to maximize efficiency and quality while minimizing downtime. But how do you get there? Integration, according to Ethan Bruyn, Manufacturing and Technology Leader at Medbio, is the key to success. According to him, “from temperature control units and hot runners to robots and peripheral equipment, we try to simplify everything by integrating it and making it as simple as possible for a technician to start the job.”