SCHWERTBERG, Austria—As demand for test swabs for nasal and throat swab tests continues to soar, Austrian injection molding machine manufacturer Engel Austria GmbH and Hack Formenbau GmbH, a mold maker based in Germany, have developed an integrated system solution with a short lead time, enabling plastics processors to launch production without delay.
The two companies already collaborate closely on many projects, with a focus on high-precision applications for medical technology. "And our customers benefit from this," Christoph Lhota, vice president of Engel medical, said in a news release. "Our customers receive a complete system that is precisely tailored to their individual requirements and can get started with series production in the shortest possible time."
The test swabs are designed with a stable thermoplastic handle and a head made of a thermoplastic elastomer to provide a more comfortable experience for the patient. Hack Formenbau developed this two-component design, initially with three different head design proposals. Handle length and shape can be custumized to customer specification, as can the swab head and the materials used.
A single production unit, equipped with a 32-cavity mold, and a cycle time of 6 to 8 seconds, can yield an output of up to 320 test swabs per minute and 460,000 test swabs per day.
The swab production unit consists of a hydraulic, two-component Engel victory injection molding machine equipped with iQ weight control for high process consistency. The iQ module detects fluctuations in the raw material and ambient conditions, and automatically compensates for them shot by shot by adapting the quality-relevant process parameters.
An integrated Engel viper linear robot automatically removes and deposits the swabs.
COVID-19-relevant orders are given priority at both Hack Formenbau and the Engel plants worldwide. However, in the future, the mold and system solution will not be used exclusively for coronavirus test swabs: The companies also are jointly developing highly efficient complete systems for the production of swabs for influenza tests or gynecological examinations, among others.