ANAHEIM, Calif. — Trelleborg Healthcare & Medical launched its new Rapid Development Center in Delano, Minn., to create a single source of design, rapid prototyping, development and serial production for its customers.
The development center will help customers avoid issues from designs that may not have taken manufacturing processes into account, Andrew Gaillard, global director of Telleborg's health care and medical segment, told Plastics News at MD&M West 2021 in Anaheim.
"We've had customers come to us from design centers and say, 'Can you make this?'" Gaillard said. "We can't, because the people who designed it didn't understand how to manufacture it."
By designing protypes in-house, he said, Trelleborg can ensure cost control and scalability while decreasing turnaround time from design to prototype.
"There's research that shows over 90 percent of a cost of a part are designed into it at the very beginning," Gaillard said. "A dedicated team … working up front on the design, creating rapid prototypes, can transition that into producing literally hundreds of millions of parts globally."
Trelleborg, part of Sweden's Trelleborg AB, is still searching for a dedicated site for the center. It expects to make that decision within two years, he said. It's currently operating out of the company's Delano facility.
While simple designs can be turned around into prototypes at the center in about 24 hours, those circumstances are "kind of rare, because the customers really build a lot of complexity into their parts," Gaillard said. "One of our areas of expertise is helping with complex critical parts that are really crucial in a medical device."
A more typical turnaround time, he said, is about three to six days.
Trelleborg's development team can assist customers with "everything from molding to machines and plastic parts, that then get assembled with molded parts" to verify design concepts and test different materials in the customers' processes, Chris Tellers, director of the new center, told Plastics News.
The center helps customers tweak designs "to make it more manufacturable, which will reduce time to market, reduce cost and should increase quality," Tellers said, meeting its existing customers' requests to improve transitions from design to serial production.
Steel vs. aluminum tools
Trelleborg's prototype toolmaking uses production-grade, hard stainless steel, he said, which "bridges a gap" between prototype and production
"Prototype bases where we've designed a full mold base, but all we need to make are the inserts [are] what drives our speed," he said. "Those molds, potentially, depending on the volume of the product, could be used for production."
Typical aluminum mold prototypes, depending on their design, are "lucky to get a few parts out of them," Tellers said. "The aluminum is so soft. It damages so easily. If it's not designed properly, the injection pressures can create havoc on aluminum tools."
That havoc can also leave behind aluminum flakes on the prototype part, "which is not good in the medical world," he added.
"We try to build these tools the same way we would build the production tools, if at all possible," Tellers said. "It drives down the time between prototype to production. … Time is always money."
Other mold features that reduce cost and aid in manufacturing processes include added radii that make smooth edges rather than sharp, which can help to quickly remove a part from a mold, while avoiding tearing and scrap parts, Kevin Ehlert, health care and medical segment manager at Trelleborg Sealing Solutions, said.
"Simple changes can have a huge impact on that part coming out of the mold," he said. "Most of the time these simple changes have no impact on how that part performs in their device or assembly."
"If it takes longer to get the part out of the mold, that's obviously a cost factor," Ehlert said. "From a medical device regulations standpoint, if five years from now we try to add those radiuses, that's a much larger change."
Process capability measurements are also not always possible with aluminum tools, he said, which "can set up the understanding of what the future manufacturing tolerances are going to be and set the customer up better for validating the process."
If the tolerances of a part are too wide and doesn't fit into the assembly, then engineers have to "go back and redesign," Ehlert said.
"We can help eliminate that iterative process by making sure we have the tolerance stack and everything lined up so that it works the first time," he said. "One of the biggest factors on cost is your cycle time in molding."
The company's steel tools are its advantage, Gaillard said, because "it shows you what it's going to look like in production and … you can even use those tools in production for at least those initial runs."
"Because our focus is primarily on large steel manufacturing globally, we can really provide value in the upfront" design, he said.
Trelleborg has also received some new customer inquiries about participation with the center, Gaillard added.
"We've currently worked on three projects for two different customers comprising of multiple parts," Tellers said, which have been "happy with turnaround times and quality."
"Employing design for manufacturing principles ensures processes that are efficient and cost-effective in high volumes, helping to alleviate the 80-to-90 percent of manufacturing costs that are usually designed into a product," Tellers said in an Aug. 10 news release. "The Rapid Development Center is a relational environment as opposed to a transactional one, where we take a consultative approach to help customers discover what they need and how it can be realized."
Trelleborg's manufacturing facilities are ISO 13485:2016 and ISO 9001 certified and meet requirements from the Food and Drug Administration and European Medical Device Regulation, and give customers access to raw material traceability, Class 7 clean rooms and established validation processes.