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Automation in MedTech: Hypotube coating process improved

With a growing demand for stents, balloon catheters and hypotubes, Freudenberg Medical’s Galway, Ireland, facility continues to increase its production capacity. Improving the hypotube coating process through the use of automation enables Freudenberg Medical to meet increasing customer demand and simultaneously deliver health, safety and environmental benefits.

According to the World Health Organisation, cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death, accounting for 32% of all deceases globally. Metal hypotubes are a critical component in cardiac balloon catheters used to deploy stents, reopen narrowed coronary arteries and prevent heart attacks. Balloon catheters and stents have been used for more than two decades to address cardiovascular disease and it is estimated that over 1 million patients in the US alone receive a stent each year.

Coating reduces friction and helps to reach narrowed arteries

Hypotubes are constructed from medical grade metals and are roughly 0.75 millimetres in diameter and 1.2 metres long. Each hypotube is coated with a lubricious thermoset material to reduce friction of the device as it passes through the arterial system of the body. Consistent hypotube coating is critical to overall product quality, however it presents a technically challenging process requiring precision and control in application and thermal curing.

Automation replaces manual processing, benefiting health, safety and sustainability

Prior to the introduction of automation to the coating process, a high level of manual processing was required. The initiative automated key aspects to greatly improve energy and material efficiency with benefits to ergonomics and safety of the operators in the coating of hypotubes.

  • Automated handling and loading of hypotubes onto fixtures enhance the precision of the coating process with ergonomic benefits for operators who have moved from a vertical loading of fixtures to a horizontal loading at waist height
  • All thermal curing processes are now automated, eliminating the risk of burns as hot fixtures are now handled robotically and automatically cooled before being returned for reuse
  • The newly automated coating process consumes less electricity per coated hypotube, delivering energy efficiency gains
  • Material efficiency has improved with the elimination of downstream cutting and cleaning steps owing to improved fixturing and robotic handling of the hypotube during the coating process
  • Equipment cleaning, coating materials preparation and management is conducted in a dedicated room with enhanced ventilation, eliminating the risk of exposure to solvent fumes
  • Coating materials and associated chemical usage has been cut in half with the newly automated process

Improvements recognized with nomination for Freudenberg Group Award

The site was recently nominated for a Freudenberg Group award recognizing advances made in its hypotube manufacturing coating process. Commenting on the newly automated process and award nomination, Steven Langan, General Manager of Freudenberg Medical’s Galway facility said, “Reflecting Freudenberg’s commitment to constant innovation and sustainability, we are delighted to now operate our new automated hypotube coating process. This offers tangible benefits to our customers and employees while reducing our environmental footprint.”