Automation transforms medical device assembly

The development of new medical devices for diagnostics, healthcare, pharmaceutical and biotechnology applications also needs innovative production systems.

Designing and building integrated automated solutions to enable efficient scale-ups that suit small to medium volumes in a flexible and cost-effective way demands special help. By integrating control and automation hardware together with software and robotics means machines are more responsive. Time to market is faster and finished product quality improved.

Making use of the data collected during the manufacturing processes leads to improved productivity through understanding and hence further improvements. This is at the heart of the Industry 4.0 solutions needed for integrating production machines demanded by producers.

Mitsubishi Electric’s Andy Jefferson considers how these technologies allow companies to address market variability and customer demand by supporting a higher level of complexity and customisation for delivering the products needed.

This can be important to medical device manufacturers, where products have a limited shelf life or need special storage conditions. It allows them to maximise profitability and the timely upscaling of production while limiting inventory.

Growing importance of production data

Smart Factories use production data across a product’s entire value chain to learn and adapt to demands in real-time. Creating data-driven operations, plants and enterprises forms the foundation of flexible and agile manufacturing strategies. To achieve this, key information generated by automation devices, such as PLCs, HMIs, sensors, VSDs and robotic solutions, need turning into knowledge and actionable insights.

The automated systems can also use the data for self-regulating closed or open loop control. By creating an environment abundant in these features, medical device manufacturers can maintain optimal operating conditions on their production lines. They also are an enabler for quality assurance and traceability requirements.

Automating Medical device production

As well as installing active data-driven systems, producers also need to put in place robust automated processing. Machine size is important to optimise the available floor space for accommodating new equipment into existing installations. This needs key components, like PLCs and VSDs with small footprints and high-level data processing capabilities for ‘data-intensive’ manufacturing applications.

When considering floorspace utilisation in robotised units, it is important also to consider their range of motion and the need for protective guards or other barriers. Cooperative systems like horizontal SCARA robots, can address the needs of medical device manufacturers with limited room available. When space is not a constraint and speed is a paramount, high-speed six-axis industrial robots may offer an ideal solution. On the other hand, collaborative robots (cobots), may be suitable for applications where humans and machines work in close harmony.

Specialist automation

Specialist automation companies like Horizon Instruments have the experience to create the ideal automated system for medical device production. Furthermore, they can help identify and select the most appropriate automation products available for the application.

By leveraging Industry 4.0 technologies, medical device manufacturers can realise flexible and agile production facilities. In doing so, they can increase their profitability and competitiveness in the market whilst supporting changing global health demands.

 

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