Arriving bright and early, Heather Veness – Extrusion Technician III at Biomerics, fires up the Extruder and sets it to the appropriate pressure and temperature ranges for this morning’s Extrusion Run. These along with several other parameters are dependent on the type of material to be used, the length and dimensions of the extrusion, and much more.
An intimidating mammoth of a machine rests before her; The Extruder, weighing thousands of pounds with dozens of knobs and buttons, Heather must be well acquainted with the finer workings of the machine to work on the fly to adjust the myriad of settings at any time. The previous night, Heather spent considerable time researching and familiarizing herself with this morning’s scheduled run to prevent any unwanted surprises. With the machine warming up, Heather opens the Run Sheet on her computer and reviews the rest of the needed specifications and continues to gather the final tooling required for the extrusion.
When it comes to Medical Devices, nearly every project will require some form of extruded tubing. As a contract manufacturer of medical devices, the benefits of having our own in-house extruding capabilities has been paramount to our continued growth and prosperity. At our Biomerics Minnesota facility, our Extrusion division plays an integral role in providing both a more customized and expedient service to our customers.
“It takes a specific type of person to run the extrusion lines” explains Heather, “I don’t think it’s for everyone. It takes a lot of patience and knowledge to get comfortable at manipulating the Extruder to give you the results you need.”
Heather took me through the current extrusion run in process – a simple, clear, single lumen tube made from low-density polyethylene or LDPE. “This one is pretty straightforward, with wide temperature and pressure range” Heather explained. However, if Tungsten or another, more sensitive material is used, that temperature range could be as low as 20°F on either side of the spectrum.
Not only must Heather and her fellow Technicians monitor the Extruder’s status in comparison with the Run Sheet; they must also conduct in-line inspections on the extruded product. In a typical production run, a sample may be required to be cut and inspected from the run as frequently as once every 15 minutes!
While the process may seem stressful, Heather was noticeably unphased while describing many of these complex challenges. “I love working on the extrusion line – I get to problem solve with my co-workers and visibly see our successes with projects. It is demanding but incredibly rewarding,” she stated.
With hundreds of different tips and dies and three extrusion lines available, Biomerics can complete dozens of extrusions each week. “With our Extrusion Lab, we have the capabilities to create custom extrusions for just about any medical grade polymer and color possible,” says Patrick Daly, Extrusion Manager at Biomerics MN. “There is very little we cannot do here in the extrusion lab – it is always fun to challenge our machines and technicians to see what we can accomplish.”
If you have a project that includes Extrusion, we would love to hear about it and see how we can help. Please contact our team at email@example.com for more information, or use our Contact Us webpage.
Special thanks to Bradley Schoenherr for this month’s blog post. Bradley works in our Brooklyn Park facility in Minnesota.