Machinery suppliers are stepping up to help with the COVID-19 response, making machines and expertise available to molders supplying essential parts.
Negri Bossi S.p.A.'s North America business is offering to mold medical parts on several in-stock injection molding machines at its the headquarters in New Castle, Del.
"We're making our facility and some of our stock injection molding machines available to run parts for molders who might need to flex their capacity to help with the shortage of medical equipment and PPE," said Steven Wolf, key account manager.
The senior management staff at Negri Bossi North America includes several people who have held plant management positions at injection molding facilities and are able to step in quickly to fill needs. The Delaware facility has a 40-ton overhead crane.
Wolf said the company can power up four machines to mold parts. Available presses have clamping forces of 800 tons, 250 tons, 180 tons and 80 tons.
John Beary, national sales manager at Negri Bossi North America, said managers at the company brainstormed what the machinery supplier could do to support the fight against COVID-19.
He said Negri Bossi also is able to help with molding nonmedical parts if some work needs to be offloaded to free up medical capacity.
"The real motivation is to help somebody else," Wolf said.
Anybody interested can call Wolf at 302-598-7456.
It is a situation being seen at multiple machinery companies globally.
Sweden's Rapid Granulator A.B. is making equipment it would have used at trade shows available for companies producing parts used in the fight against the coronavirus.
"In the COVID-19 pandemic, safety equipment is vital and, unfortunately, not available in sufficient quantities. By offering these rental machines, we see that it makes a difference for our customers in their efforts to provide as much equipment as possible to the health care in societies," said Anders Martensson, sales and marketing director for Bredaryd-based Rapid.
Robot makers Hekuma G.m.b.H. and Hahn Automation Group are working to keep the pipeline open for high-speed medical automation used for products in coronavirus testing equipment and other medical uses.
"It looks like all machines from our portfolio—petri dishes, pipette tips, reaction vessels and blood tubes—are coming now up with higher demand," said Helmut Schmid, deputy head of sales at Hekuma in Hallbergmoos, Germany. "Companies are extremely busy with their existing production and start now thinking about higher output and additional production demands."
Schmid said most demand for medical automation is coming from the U.S. and Europe. Asia is not as busy for new medical automation systems because molders there tend to use older injection molding machines for free-dropping parts from the press and then sorting or loading the parts manually to trays.
Hahn makes several automation brands, including Waldorf, known for handling medical disposables like pipette tips, reaction vessels and diagnostic caps.
"Eighty percent of our business is in medical diagnostics. Our customers are all running on full capacity again, as much as possible under the current circumstances," said Markus Klaus, president of Hahn Plastics Automation Inc. in Windsor, Conn., the U.S. unit of the Germany-based Hahn Automation Group.
Klaus said Hahn Plastics Automation is considered an essential business in Connecticut, so the operation is running and meeting guidelines for social distancing and hygiene. Hahn's other three U.S. businesses are all working to help makers of ventilators, as units of the company's assembly and test division: REI in South Carolina, Hahn Automation in Kentucky and Invotec in Ohio. "They are very experienced in building automation for assembly and testing of products like ventilators and respirators," Klaus said.
New customers seeking aid
Branson Ultrasonics, a division of Emerson Electric Co., is experiencing "very strong demand" for its ultrasonic welding equipment, said John Meek, president of assembly technologies for Emerson Assembly Technologies.
"We have existing customers who are adding more equipment, to add lines and capacity," Meek said.
He said Branson also is "getting questions from companies we've never heard of," including some that want to make face masks for their own employees. "We're getting orders for equipment from people who haven't made masks before," Meek said.
Branson does application engineering of ultrasonic welding equipment at its headquarters in Danbury, Conn.
Ultrasonic welding can be used to join the seams on the edge of a basic flat-fold mask and to secure the elastic band that goes around your head, Meek said. The 3D-formed masks include a frame and also benefit from ultrasonic welding. The technology also is used to make N95 respirators and surgical masks.
Meek said ultrasonic welding plays a key role in other diagnostic medical items, too. Saline bags, blood testing kits and catheters, as well as protective gowns and booties make use of the manufacturing technique.
"Our employees are excited about this because they see where our products are going. And we're helping to save lives, too," Meek said.
Ultrasonic welding plays a key in joining medical parts, and companies in that sector are taking their responsibilities seriously.
Herrmann Ultrasonics Inc. of Bartlett, Ill., supplies equipment for the medical sector, including the personal protective equipment in short supply, food, textiles and other industries.
"Therefore, we are remaining open and operating but with reduced internal staff for the health and well-being of all employees. We will remain open as long as our local government allows and as long as we feel our employees' health is not jeopardized," said Uwe Peregi, executive vice president and general manager.
Herrmann Ultrasonics is committed to customer service, he said. "We have many employees working from home and in the office, readily available for support calls or video conferencing support when necessary," Peregi said.