Optima Automation is helping Heraeus Medical prepare a next-generation bone cement for market. The new Palacos System pro bone cement system was developed to provide users a clean, contact-free solution for mixing and applying the cement thanks to a prefilled format and a closed preparation system.
Heraeus Medical manufactures the new Palacos System pro bone cement system in a new 2800-sq-m building that was operational in the summer of 2018. Optima Automation provided a nearly fully automated production process consisting of two thermoformers and additional equipment. The first of the two thermoforming packaging machines produces the primary packaging blister, and components such as nozzles, knee pressurizers, and femoral pressurizers are fed into this blister and inserted in the correct position. Other components in the set are manufactured on supplementary assembly modules and then are also inserted into the primary packaging. These include tubular wraps with activated carbon filters and applicators. The primary packaging blister is then fed to the second thermoforming packaging machine and transferred into the secondary packaging blisters. The system can reach ten cycles per minute.
After being packaged into individual shipping cartons and sterilized with ethylene dioxide, the bone cement sets are ready for sale.
Automating the feeding process for all components has minimized operator intervention, significantly improving process safety. One format is used. However, the set's composition can be customized flexibly, such as the size of the cartridges and the number and filling volumes of the ampoules. The design printed on the blister foil can also be changed at any time.
"It only took two weeks to set up the huge system," explained Dr. Britta Baer, head of supply chain at Heraeus Medical. The final acceptance test at Heraeus Medical was successfully completed on schedule in July 2018.
Optima Automation worked closely with the manufacturer of the thermoforming packaging machines and also worked flexibly with Heraeus Medical to address any product modifications. For example, the blister foil feed had to be re-routed around the corner because the product turned out to be bigger than planned. "Everyone's flexibility and equanimity was put to the test," Baer shared. In addition, sample parts were only available relatively late in the process. Optima Automation continued with the design and remained flexible when one of the feeder units had to be adapted at later stages.
Heraeus Medical continues to advance its bone cement solutions. It is currently developing a new system that will be manufactured in the new building on a production line supplied by Optima Automation, featuring a filling system to be provided by Optima Automation.