When Polymer Conversions, Inc. uses the term “value-added” or “secondary services”, they are referring to the post-molding operations that are done to precision thermoplastic components they produce in their Western New York medical injection molding facility.

Before a project starts, PCI engineers find out the customer’s current method of manufacturing, assembly, and packaging, whether it’s done at their own facility, or outsourced to suppliers.  The team then figures out whether processes can be consolidated and brought in-house to Polymer, saving the customer from having to invest thousands of dollars in areas that they’d rather not waste their time and resources on.  This means OEM’s and small start-up companies worry less about overhead, raw material inventory, machinery/asset expenditures, tracking the performance of multiple suppliers, etc. and can concentrate more on what really matters – the bottom line.  It would allow their personnel to re-focus on designing next-generation products, beating competitors to market, and ultimately increasing overall profitability.

Some of the most common processes performed at a turnkey contract manufacturer such as Polymer Conversions are:

Pad printing (decorating) (“pad transfer printing”) = is one of the most popular “secondary” services performed at the Orchard Park medical injection molding facility.  Customers can utilize this service to create visual interest with logos and graphics, graduated scales, contact information, or usage instructions.  Processes like shrink wrap applications and silk screening can be messy, time consuming, and are usually limited to simple product geometries.  These processes also lack the precision output that a cliché and silicone pad can gently transfer to critical medical device components.  All inks used, are permanent and specially formulated to adhere to thermoplastic resins that range from standard stock to highly engineered resins.  This allows the printing to withstand the constant use of hospital cleaning agents, high-volume handling, and/or environmental factors such as water, sun, and pollution.  PCI can print just about anything, and can process from one part at a time, to a 2-color roll printing station, to using a 6-station pad printing cell that can decorate parts with multiple colors using quick dry ink.  Less popular processes that are still available include the hot stamping of foils, and adhesive/pressure sensitive label applications.

Ultrasonic welding (joining) = another highly performed value-added service is the ultrasonic welding of components.  Many surfaces can be joined together, including: two plastic components, a plastic component and a paper filter, etc.  The advantages of ultrasonic welding are the accuracy, quality, cleanliness and speed.  When done properly, there should be no flash and components should seal together airtight.  In addition to the standard operator-aided assembly, the Polymer team also utilizes Fanuc 6-axis robotic assembly cells and in-line vision systems in their medical injection molding facility, to ensure every product produced gets 100% quality checked for critical dimension accuracy, and presence of all required components.  Spin, vibration or hot plate welding is also available, although not as popular.

Heat Staking Thermal Inserting = There are a few different versions of “heat staking” or “staking”, but full-service medical injection molding companies like Polymer Conversions, prefer the thermal pressing of inserts into pre-molded thermoplastic bosses, for the assembly of various sized brass inserts.  This process provides permanent insertion and if programmed properly, shows no burn or sink marks and is ultra-precise and particulate/flash free, which is ideal for the assembly of medical device components that need to be disassembled by the end users for easy cleaning or repairs.  The difference with this type of insertion is that the staking post enters the inside of the insert to heat it from the inside out, melting the plastic directly contacting it at just the right temperature to flow around the outer threads and to grip the knurls for proper seating.   Polymer’s machines are customized to handle multiple sized inserts seating at different depths at the same time.  Coupled with 6-axis robotic assembly stations and in-line 100% vision systems, this saves the customer time and money by leaning out the process for quicker lead times and the critical requirements of repeatability and reproducibility that is a must-have for medical device manufacturers.

Two-shot molding (or “over molding”) = the use of soft-touch plastic material over-molded onto a more rigid first-shot plastic component, offers a unique look and feel, allowing end users to comfortably grip the product so that it doesn’t slip from their hands.  This is a highly desired feature on medical injection molding products that are used in an environment with the potential presence of liquids, such as hospitals.

Product packaging, bagging, kitting =  If a customer can find a full-service medical contract manufacturer like Polymer Converisons who can produce precision plastic parts, provide in-house value-added services and also do full packaging/kitting/labeling of those products produced, they can keep their supplier base extremely small.  It gives them less suppliers to audit and oversee, as well as the confidence that they are getting the highest levels of quality, precision, repeatability and reproducibility.