Collaboration Leads to Complete Turnkey System

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The medical market is driven by complex applications that require reliable, repeatable molding solutions. For medical molders who must quickly and consistently manufacture high quality parts using difficult-to-mold resins, this leaves little room for error.

This was the case for medical device manufacturer ICU Medical, who wanted to improve productivity when manufacturing their Breather Cap medical part, while maintaining quality and streamlining costs. By collaborating with the right partners who understood their needs, ICU was able to successfully achieve this goal.

ICU was founded in 1984 by Dr. George Lopez, a practicing internist. After tragically losing a patient as the result of an accidental disconnect of intravenous (IV) lines, Lopez imagined there must be a better way to secure IV lines.

Lopez’s solution to this problem was to design and manufacture the Click Lock, which provided a locking mechanism for IV systems. The Click Lock was comprised of a protected needle, which also served to prevent healthcare workers from being accidentally stuck with a contaminated needle. The Click Lock has since evolved into the CLAVE connector, a one-piece needle-free IV connection device. The Breather Cap is an extremely small, yet vital part of the CLAVE because its function is to prevent contamination.

Partner Selection
ICU had previously been using a 12-year-old injection molding machine, with a 32-cavity mold to produce their Breather Cap, but was looking to upgrade technology after they began experiencing quality issues like flash and gate remnant caused by tool wear. Their goal was to find a solution that would not only solve these issues, but could also achieve faster cycle times and increased cavitation, while lowering costs and maintaining the highest levels of product quality.

To achieve these goals, ICU wanted to work with companies that could not only help them produce a high quality part, but also provide open communication and support them with their long-term needs. ICU ended up choosing two suppliers they had worked with in the past—injection molding equipment and services provider Husky Injection Molding Systems and mold manufacturer Tech Mold, Inc. Both Husky and Tech Mold had previously worked with ICU to design a complete systems solution for their CLAVE connector that improved productivity and reduced scrap and ICU wanted to replicate this success with the Breather Cap.

“This project had an aggressive leadtime, so we wanted to work with reliable partners who we could trust and have direct, regular communication with,” says Jeffrey Miller, Tooling Engineer for ICU. “Because we had ongoing relationships with both Husky and Tech Mold we knew we could ensure that everyone would be on the same page and understand our goals from the start. In the medical molding business that’s a big benefit because it helps to reduce leadtimes, minimizing problems and expenses down the road.”

Having already worked with Husky, ICU was familiar with their level of service and maintenance-friendly turnkey systems that allow for quick mold changes. Similarly, ICU had experience working with Tech Mold and knew that for this project they needed a quality mold builder specializing in high cavitations that could also provide exceptional after-sales support.

Complete Turnkey System
To meet the special needs of this project, ICU, Husky and Tech Mold worked together to design a complete turnkey system—including machine, mold, hot runner and temperature controller.

Gaetano Santospirito, Area Manager for Husky, was involved in the project from the very beginning, working with both the ICU and Tech Mold teams to develop the best possible solution. “Husky’s ongoing goal is to develop solutions for our customers that will enable them to be more competitive, sustainable and profitable. By working closely with ICU and Tech Mold, we were each able to share knowledge in our particular area of expertise. This balance helped us to face any challenges head on and to facilitate truly exceptional results.”

Phil Estrada, Quoting Manager for Tech Mold, also worked closely with both teams and recognizes the importance of working with the right partners. “Our goal is to make our customers 100 percent satisfied and we want to work with companies that have this same goal,” says Estrada. “The collaboration between ICU, Tech Mold and Husky played a big role in this project’s success because it allowed each player to communicate freely, resulting in the development of a cutting-edge system within a short period of time.”

To produce their Breather Cap, ICU switched to a Husky machine, complete with a 32-drop Ultra 350 hot runner with UltraSync electric plate actuation and Altanium Matrix temperature controller. To accompany the hot runners, Tech Mold built a 32-cavity mold designed for fast heat removal and improved cooling time.

This combination proved to be the ideal solution for ICU’s Breather Cap. Husky’s UltraSync technology supported the fast cycle time by ensuring precise simultaneous gate closing, resulting in consistent part filling and excellent gate quality. The mold’s ability to facilitate fast cooling paired with the repeatability of UltraSync’s valve gate technology improved the cycle time by approximately 30 percent. Running less than a five-second cycle on a 32-cavity mold, ICU will be able to achieve the production capacity of a 64-cavity mold running a cycle time ranging from six to seven seconds. Additionally, Husky’s system is ideal for the Breather Cap because it is cleanroom compatible.

Long-Term Collaboration
“In addition to reducing setup time, minimizing downtime is also considered when choosing partners,” explains ICU’s Miller. “These are such important factors in medical manufacturing because doctors lose patients when products are not delivered on time. This is why we must ensure we do everything possible to meet our customers’ supply demands without fail.”

For this reason, ICU looks for partners who can provide fast, responsive service should any production issues arise. “With other machine builders we sometimes had to wait two weeks before we could be visited by a service technician,” notes ICU’s Miller. “After we first started working with Husky they assigned a local service technician to our area. We now have five Husky machines and the average response time when we have an issue is less than 24 hours.”

As a medical device manufacturer, productivity is important to ICU, however reducing downtime and maintaining the highest levels of quality are critical. By working together, ICU, Husky and Tech Mold were able to achieve all of these goals.

“We each had a particular role in this project. ICU shared their expertise in medical device manufacturing. The Husky team brought their knowledge of plastics processing and complete turnkey systems. Tech Mold’s engineering skill produced a high quality tool that fit the package. This project was such a big success because we were able to combine our experience to come up with an ideal solution,” says Tech Mold’s Estrada.

Moving forward, the success of this collaboration will certainly be applied to future projects. “We are off to a great start on this project and look forward to building on this success. To remain competitive we must continue to challenge ourselves. Our relationship with Husky and Tech Mold has definitely helped us to achieve some ambitious goals and we are confident they will be there to support our long-term needs,” concludes Miller.