Ireland-based Avenue Mould Solutions Ltd
has taken delivery of a 75-tonne IntElect all-electric injection moulding machine at its site in Sligo, describing it as “the ideal machine for medical start-up projects”. The investment will support growth in the company’s healthcare division, providing dedicated capacity to mould precision parts during the product development phase.
Gerard Henn, general manager at Avenue, which is an integral part of Nolato GW
, said: “A lot of our medical device projects start with a development phase, when we need to produce a single- or two-cavity tool before scaling up.”
“The footprint of the IntElect is nice and compact - not overly long or wide; it comes with a number of process control features and has all the interfaces needed to seamlessly connect with other pieces of supporting equipment.”
Since it was originally founded in 1988, Avenue has become a trusted partner for leading medical device and drug delivery OEMs and contract manufacturers in Ireland and mainland Europe. Accredited to ISO 9001 and ISO 13485, the company specialises in the design, manufacture and validation of high precision multi-cavity injection moulds and contract injection moulding for the medical device and pharmaceutical industries.
Avenue, in recent years, decided that any new presses should be all-electric on the grounds of the energy-efficiency, consistency and low noise advantages they offer over their hydraulic counterparts.
With demand for its medical device injection moulding and tool-building services on the rise, in summer 2019, Avenue installed a new 100m2
ISO Class 8 cleanroom area at its Sligo facility. This expansion necessitated an increase in capacity for moulding tools for producing components such as vials, test trays, Luer lock fitments and connectors, as well as shell housing mouldings and mating components, for medical device assemblies.
Mr Henn continued: “Our business was already experiencing strong ‘natural’ growth, and the Covid-19 crisis has augmented this growth – test products and IV fitments are in demand around the world.”
Sumitomo (SHI) Demag is a Nolato GW approved vendor for injection moulding machinery in the USA, making them an obvious contender for this project. At the start of 2020, Avenue instigated discussions with Sumitomo, with a view to the new press coming on-stream by July.
Sumitomo’s 75-tonne IntElect all-electric injection moulding machine ticked all the boxes in Avenue’s brief for a small footprint machine for carrying out test runs during the development phase of projects.
He added: “All medical programmes are lengthy as it can take two to three years to obtain approvals from the authorities, so there are many months of testing before a component or mould is ready to be scaled up to mass production. Test runs might be anything from 10,000 to 100,000 units. In order to satisfy this range of volume requirements, the mould size and cavitation suits this press perfectly.”
The machine’s exceptionally small footprint is down to the use of Sumitomo’s own motors and drives - some competitors buy these parts in, making a compact design more difficult to achieve.
This model has particularly wide tie bar spacing and high clamp force for its size, allowing the use of larger moulds than would normally be accommodated by a 75 tonne machine.
Darren Herron, Sumitomo’s national sales manager for the UK and Ireland, said: “Usually, if you want to use a larger mould, you have to go to a larger machine, say a 100-tonne one. With the IntElect 75 you can run a larger mould in a smaller machine.”
The IntElect also comes with a choice of five screw diameters for maximum flexibility - Avenue can run a variety of tools with different shot weights.
Avenue elected several add-on options - activeFlowBalance, activeRemote activeLock and a VNC connection - to enhance control over the moulding process and guarantee the dimensional precision that is demanded by the healthcare industry — activeFlowBalance uses machine-control technology to balance filling fluctuations, ensuring shot-to-shot consistency, and activeRemote in conjunction with the VNC (Virtual Network Cable) allows remote diagnosis from Sumitomo personnel for both technical and process issues on-line.
Mr Henn said: “The medical industry demands that components are produced within extremely tight tolerances and the allowable tolerances are getting tighter all the time. We find that these process control features are invaluable in ensuring customer acceptance of tools, instilling confidence that that they will work as intended to produce a precision component with high repeatability and accuracy.”
Avenue took delivery of the IntElect last June and is already thinking about further extending its fleet in time.
He concluded: “We have 12 injection moulding machines on site at present and Sumitomo (SHI) Demag will most definitely be a serious option for our future next steps.”