Thermoforming Case Study:
Expertise Matters: How Profile Plastics Delivered on a Complex Medical Device Part (When Others Couldn’t)
PROJECT AT A GLANCE
|Medical device for warming blood and other fluids prior to infusion
|Pressure forming for plastic molded enclosures
Challenge: Where do you turn when a supplier lets you down on both a project’s timeline and a part’s quality?
Augustine Medical (now known as Arizant, a 3M company) develops cutting-edge devices for the healthcare industry. Design engineer Scott Entenman was dealing with an aggressive timeline to get a new product, the Ranger™ Blood and Fluid Warming System, to market.
Some of the product design work was outsourced to another company, who also happened to suggest a thermoformer to produce the plastic enclosures. Unfortunately, that’s when things really went downhill.
As Scott recalls, “Everything looked too perfect.” And as it turned out, everything was far from it:
Missed deadlines. The thermoformer promised tooling in four weeks and actual parts in six. It actually took three months before Scott saw the first enclosures.
Poor quality. The quality of the parts was less than Scott expected.
Additional time to fix problems. Several more weeks were needed to get the parts to meet the criteria for quality, though Scott says he still saw room for improvement.
“I was left in an awkward position having to choose whether to stick with the current supplier or begin again,” says Scott. Because of the timeline, Scott stuck with the supplier for the initial production phase. In the meantime, though, he began a methodical search for a different thermoformer.”
I was left in an awkward position having to choose whether to stick with the current supplier or begin again.
Solution: Finding a thermoformer with the right capabilities
Based on the experience he’d had, Scott’s search for a qualified thermoformer revolved around key criteria like the following:
Deep expertise with complex parts. Scott encountered companies that claimed they could produce the complex enclosures. But he would probe a little more and come to learn they hadn’t actually done such complicated work before.
Exceptional examples of prior applications. Scott and his team examined samples from a number of thermoformers. But he says that many of the parts still exhibited “rough witness lines, and the forming was washed out and did not look crisp.”
Experience with molded-in color. Scott wanted a thermoformer with expertise using molded-in color rather than one who routinely painted their plastic parts. “I had seen vendors cover a multitude of sins with paint,” says Entenman.
The only thermoformer that ultimately met Scott’s criteria was Profile Plastics. His research and vetting revealed that Profile Plastics:
- EConsistently produced quality parts on time
- ECould provide samples demonstrating crisp witness lines, a deep grasp of secondary operations like trimming, and ample experience with clean, molded-in color
- EHad vast knowledge of complex thermoforming processes
I had seen vendors cover a multitude of sins with paint.
Results: Efficient communication, seamless production, and “reproducible quality” the first time around
Fortunately, despite the less-than-ideal start with another thermoformer, Augustine Medical ultimately achieved project success with Profile Plastics. Scott says the Ranger™ Blood and Fluid Warming System “is definitely now a competitive product.”
Highlights of the project include the following:
A more efficient process. Scott says Profile was able to expedite the timeline “by determining tool and secondary operation adjustments in just one site visit”—a much different process from the extensive back-and-forth and the multiple part iterations he had endured before.
Smoother production. Unlike the prior thermoformer, Profile’s part production moved forward without unexpected glitches.
Outstanding final parts. “When I saw the finished product I was impressed,” says Scott. “Not only did Profile’s production of the Ranger have consistently reproducible quality, but it also had the sleek, metallic appearance that I had been hoping for.
Not only did Profile’s production … have consistently reproducible quality, but it also had the sleek, metallic appearance that I had been hoping for.
A Valuable Lesson Learned
The success that Augustine Medical had with Profile Plastics has served as a valuable lesson for Scott.
“It is imperative to talk to previous customers, inquire about the vendor’s experience with like parts, and see the vendor’s previous work,” he says. “If this had been done before the initial vendor selection, we may have saved money and invaluable weeks of work.”
Struggling with your current thermoformer? Just want to talk about your future thermoforming needs?
Set up an introductory call with Profile Plastics.