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INDUSTRY NEWS

Originally Published October 2000

INDUSTRY NEWS

Laser System Makes Mark in Medical Applications

A new laser marking system that requires no special additives and is suitable for medical applications was featured at a recent manufacturing show in the Netherlands.

Traditional laser marking techniques rely on infrared light, which burns special additives in a substrate to make them visible. In contrast, the new system from Coherent Laser Group (Santa Clara, CA) uses a 355-nm UV laser and introduces no physical degradation to the surface being marked. Instead, the technique employed by the company relies on the laser-induced reduction of titanium dioxide (TiO2) molecules in the material to be marked. TiO2 is a readily available reagent and is commonly used to whiten plastics.

A further advantage of Coherent's system is that it is polymer independent. The technology can be used to mark on a variety of materials including polypropylene, polyethylene, polyvinyl chloride, ABS, and polymer blends. Marco Bak, managing director of Coherent's Netherlands-based subsidiary Lasertec B.V., says that this feature is often attractive to device OEMs that do not want to commit themselves to more-expensive laser-grade plastics often required in infrared marking.

A laser developed by Coherent Laser Group produces markings by means of a reduction of the titanium dioxide molecules, thus preventing physical degradation to the surface being marked.

The company recently supplied a turnkey laser marking system employing this technology to Siemens Medical Instruments in Singapore for the marking of delicate hearing aid components. According to Bak, the Siemens project presented a logistical challenge typical of the medical industry. "The problem was that they were using printing, which took place at the end of the production line," he says. "If anything went wrong, it was too late to correct it."

"Compared to printing technologies, lasers offer good reliability and traceability," says Bak. "Also, customers lose downtime and gain flexibility," he adds. Bak also stresses the significance of a turnkey system for medical marking projects. "We coordinate with suppliers of materials and equipment, integrate everything, and write the system software," he says. Laser marking is also suitable for medical applications because it eliminates the need for aggressive inks, which may pose health risks and are environmentally undesirable. According to Bak, the higher cost of the Lasertec marking system is outweighed by the rising cost of using conventional printing systems to satisfy these concerns.

According to the company, this technology also holds promise for catheter marking.—Benjamin Lichtman

United Plastics Group Opens New Facility

United Plastics Group Inc. (Ludlow, MA) announced that its consumer and medical division's primary plant will expand into a new 80,000-sq-ft facility. The full-service manufacturer of plastic products will move molding and assembly operations from its existing plant in Ludlow to the new environmentally controlled facility in Chicopee, MA. This plant will become the divisional headquarters for the company's consumer and medical products.

United Plastic Group's new facility will offer primary and secondary molding operations.

In addition to molding and assembly services, the new facility will offer decorating and other secondary operations. The plant, which has the capacity for 50 molding machines, initially will house 25 molders ranging from 100 to 1000 tn.—Katherine Sweeny

Two Companies Join to Develop Replacement Materials for PVC Compounds

Ferro Corp.'s Filled and Reinforced Plastics Division (Evansville, IL) and Melitek of Copenhagen (Denmark) have struck an alliance to develop polyvinyl chloride (PVC) replacement materials for use in sterilizable medical packaging. This move formalizes a seven-year relationship.

Ferro developed the olefin-based RxLoy line in the early 1990s and licensed the resin technology to Melitek, the exclusive RxLoy supplier in Europe. Ferro describes the RxLoy grades as a cost-effective alternative to PVC in medical packaging applications.

Jointly developed PVC-replacement materials will be used for medical packaging.

"Recent plasticized PVC disposal issues for hospitals, clinics, and HMOs in the United States have increased both the interest level in and evaluation of RxLoy resins," says Joe Klein, director of marketing for Ferro. "Resin economics is less of an issue where there are valid medical reasons for an olefin-based system, such as CAPD bags or IV bags, or for hospitals confronting toxic waste disposal of plasticized PVC versus simply incinerating olefins," adds Klein.

Ferro's olefinic alloy combines radio-frequency weldability with a significantly lower specific gravity, which allows downgauging and improves processing relative to PVC. Other key features include low extractables, high clarity, and excellent barrier properties. The alloys are fully sterilizable by steam, gamma, EtO, and E-beam technologies.

According to Ferro, the European Union is moving more rapidly than the United States in seeking alternative materials to PVC for the medical industry. The company sees its alliance with Melitek as an opportunity to continue developing olefinic alloys for the European market, while benefiting from new and existing specifications secured by Melitek that can be transferred to North America.—Rosemarie A. Santora

Personal Digital Assistant–Based Calibrator Facilitates Data Gathering and Evaluation

Using the Palm OS computing platform, a new line of personal digital assistant (PDA)–based calibrators was displayed at the Instrument Society of America's Exposition earlier this year. Created by Transmation Inc. (Rochester, NY), the 4 x 7 x 1-in. handheld calibrators act as a docking station for the Palm. The Transmation Series 3 PDA calibrators feature a liquid-crystal display touch screen interface that eliminates the need for the buttons and knobs that traditional handheld calibrators require. Combining source and read functions, the documenting calibrators automatically build a device database in the field, can integrate with a facility's existing maintenance practices and systems, and are compatible with all Palm III series PDAs with 2 Mbytes of RAM.

"Our new line of PDA calibrators allow a technician on the plant floor to gather, evaluate, and share information companywide and even worldwide with unparalleled ease, reducing labor time and enhancing performance," says Robert G. Klimasewski, president and CEO of Transmation Inc.

The new PDA calibrator incorporates Palm OS technology.

To document a calibration, technicians enter device information using a stylus, or select a preexisting device record, and then store instrument identification and input and output information. Users can read measurement data directly from the source circuits or record information manually with the stylus. The PDA software can be used to document nonelectronic calibrations, such as scales and gas analyzers, without the calibrator attached. After the work is completed, users record the information and upload it to a desktop via the HotSync function, creating a permanent certificate of calibration.

"In many facilities, most technicians still carry a pen and paper to the field," says Frank van Vliet, vice president of Transmation Inc. "Recording and storing the data remains a labor-intensive, redundant exercise that could benefit from the marriage of PDA and calibration technology." With the full functionality of a PDA, the calibrators allow technicians to plan their work schedules and appointments and download compatible third-party software, such as conversion and electrical calculators.—Katherine Sweeny

M.A. Hanna and Geon Join to Form New Company

M.A. Hanna Co. (Cleveland) and Geon Co. (Avon Lake, OH), the parent company of Geon Engineered Films Group (formerly O'Sullivan Corp.), have announced that the new company they have formed as a result of their merger will be called PolyOne Corp. The $3.5 billion company will provide polymer services worldwide.

"We expect to take advantage of the many assets, including sophisticated technology and pioneering materials, that M.A. Hanna brings to the Geon family of companies," says John Campbell, general manager of Geon Engineered Films.

Phillip Ashkettle, former chairman and CEO of M.A. Hanna, says, "We wanted our new name to reflect our commitment to customers as well as our growing industry role."

Geon Co. provides polymer services and technologies with operations in vinyl compounds, specialty vinyl resins and formulations, and engineered films. Its Geon Engineered Films Group manufactured flexible vinyl, alloys, and olefin film and sheeting. The company customized rolls and sheets to meet any customer specification, including offering such services as embossing, printing, slitting, pressing, painting, and laminating. The company also recycled thermoplastic polymers into various product applications.

M.A. Hanna specialized in plastic compounding and color and additive systems, rubber compounding and color additives, and distribution of plastic resins and engineered plastic shapes.

Vertical Injection Molding Machine Debuts

A new choice in vertical thermoplastic injection molding equipment is now available to the North American market. Sandretto USA Inc., in conjunction with Cannon Tecnos Italy (Milan), has been marketing the vertical machines in Europe and will now begin supplying them to the North American market as well. According to Sandretto, the equipment's flexibility may benefit device manufacturers.

"Vertical injection molding is an excellent solution for inserting molded medical components. The vertical molding approach can offer a more manageable system of demolding flexible materials," says Tony Firth, vice president and general manager of Sandretto USA Inc. The Sandretto vertical machines combine a Tecnos vertical clamp system with Sandretto injection units and SEF 2000 control system. Available in clamping forces ranging from 50 to 6000 tn, the machines can be custom designed to suit most applications.

The Sandretto vertical injection molding machine can be custom designed to fit the needs of most applications.

Single and shuttle stations, or complex carousel configurations, are available and include a variety of custom-built systems, such as single or multiple horizontal and vertical injection-unit presses.

Also available on the Sandretto vertical machines is the SP Molding Process, developed by Sumitomo Chemical Company Ltd., and licensed to Cannon Tecnos for worldwide distribution. This process, which has a broad range of uses, combines the advantages of injection and compression molding and is adaptable to many applications. The SP Process uses low-pressure molding that exerts uniform pressure over the entire surface of the product, enabling components to be molded with low residual stress, deformation, and solvent cracking.—Rosemarie A. Santora

New Software Aids in Product and Customer Service

A new product-oriented customer service software package is designed to suit the needs of medical equipment manufacturers. Metrix Inc. (Waukesha, WI) has developed the Metrix 4 e-Service application that features a component-based, N-tier architecture for complete inventory visibility and real-time tracking. The software package includes configurable Web self-service, mobile database synchronization, a configurable schedule board, and global repair center functionality. It also enables automated contract renewals, advance replacement, reverse logistics, and accelerated rollout of integrated Web strategies.

The Metrix 4 e-Service application enables manufacturers to keep up with and serve the needs of their customers.

"The Metrix 4 suite has been well received because of its ability to track multiple warranties and complete service histories by serial number, and to provide total inventory management functions," says Harvey Shovers, vice president of sales and marketing for Metrix. With the repair center module, users have a complete repair history of all their tools and instruments. The support center module also alerts clients when their equipment is due for required preventive maintenance.

Metrix's client roster in the medical supply industry includes Baxter Healthcare, Dade Behring Inc., Fuji Medical Systems, and Steris.—Katherine Sweeny

In Brief

Demag Ergotech USA (Strongsville, OH), a Germany-based producer of injection molding equipment, is expanding its North American presence. The company has ended its alliance with Van Dorn Demag Corp. and now reports directly to Demag Ergotech GmbH (Nuremberg, Germany). According to Richard Shaffer, vice president and general manager, the move is the next step in Demag Ergotech's global strategy. "We will now be better positioned to exceed our customers' expectations in terms of machine design and technology, delivery, and installation," explains Shaffer.... Bayer Corp. (Pittsburgh) has recently established e-business links with more than 50 plastics and polyurethanes customers. The BayerONE links, which enable customers to access information about their Bayer accounts, are among the first of their kind in the polyurethane industry.... Express Manufacturing Inc. (Santa Ana, CA), a turnkey contract electronics manufacturer, has expanded its operations to include a 30,000-sq-ft facility that will house turnkey management personnel and provide the additional production space needed to meet customer demand. The expansion is expected to boost turnaround time by 20%, especially in the box-build sector.... ETL Semco (Boxborough, MA), the U.S. division of Intertek Testing Services (ITS), recently announced that its quality management systems registration business unit, ITS Intertek Services, has joined the WorldPreferred.com World Preferred Network. WorldPreferred.com is an Internet marketplace that connects suppliers with purchasing professionals worldwide.... Galil Motion Control Inc. (Mountain View, CA), a developer of digital motion control technology, has relocated its corporate headquarters to Rocklin, CA, just east of Sacramento. The company will maintain a direct sales office in the Silicon Valley and continue to sell through distributors worldwide.... PortaFab Corp. (Chesterfield, MO), a manufacturer of modular cleanroom wall systems, has added Airo Clean's UltraGuard 2000 fan filter module to its cleanroom products line. This acquisition moves PortaFab closer to its goal of becoming a full-line manufacturer of cleanroom components.... Piher International Corp. (Libertyville, IL), a manufacturer and marketer of proprietary, OEM custom-fixed and variable resistors, recently received ISO 14001 certification. This certification indicates Piher's immediate and long-term concern for its products' impact on the environment.... Robert James Sales (Buffalo, NY), a manufacturer and distributor of corrosion-resistant piping products, has completed the asset purchase of IGS (Houston), a manufacturer of quality fittings. The name of the Houston company will be IGS-Robert James.

Internet Update: "DotComs"

Labeling Site Introduced

A company that specializes in high-performance harsh environment labeling, Lexan nameplates, and die-cut 3M VHB tape components for metal and plastic fabrication has launched a Web site that provides company information. Located at www.tailoredlabel.com, the site includes information on Tailored Label Products Inc., materials used, employment opportunities, and upcoming events and materials updates. A main feature is the innovations links page that details Tailored Label Products' labeling solutions including tamper-evident labels for difficult surfaces, cold temperature label material, super-high-bonding labels for oily surfaces, and bonding alternatives for metal and plastic fabrications. The product information page gives background information on various products such as thermal-transfer ribbons and printers, software, and labels and products used in harsh environments. The Web site also has a page for quotation submissions and literature requests, accelerating the communication process.

Procurement Web Site Upgraded

A Web site devoted to connecting suppliers with companies purchasing custom manufacturing services has extended its capabilities to include automated procurement practices and a streamlined private quoting process. Users looking to manage and track the procurement process on-line can visit ManufacturingQuote.com at www.mfgquote.com.

Using the new collaborative procurement management program, buyers can administer requests for quotes (RFQs) as projects, make RFQs available only to certain vendors, specify target prices, and access closed projects for historical analysis. Active projects contain real-time summary information including estimated cost, time to project completion, variance to budget, and RFQ supplier activity.


The Web site's capabilities were enhanced to help custom manufacturers process accurate quotations, reduce cyclical workloads, and increase profitability. Job-bots specific to machine tools, work cells, or processes automatically search for RFQs that meet the buyer's criteria. Vendors can obtain instant notification for accepted or rejected quotes, acquire quote ranking versus other quote submissions, and directly communicate with customers worldwide.

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