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custom-made formula- tions of plastics are proprietary—made by a single company and sometimes made only at a single facility. So if a fi re or natural disaster cuts off access to that single source, the medical OEM can get burnt. It can take six months to get use of a different grade of material approved by the FDA. “So when a backup material can be qualifi ed up front, it can save a lot of trouble later on,” Kvalo explained.


From Metal to Plastic EVCO Plastics has been on the front lines of a trend in the industry to, when feasible, move from metals to plastics. There are a number of reasons that the latter can be a better choice. One of the most important of these is that working in plastics can simplify the manufacturing process, saving time and remov- ing variables that can affect part quality.


EVCO Plastics Class 100,000 (ISO Class 8) clean room in DeForest, WI includes 14 plastic injection molding machines ranging from 28 to 220 tons.


down and it mistake-proofs the assembly for the OEM. “You know, the tooling in injection molding is probably the most expensive tooling of any plastic process and technol- ogy—but if you make that investment, you end up with the lowest part cost. And you’re able to put a range of features in the mold that can replace what were separate parts or opera- tions in a metal version of the product.”


“The tooling in injection molding is probably the most expensive tooling of any plastic process and technology—but if you make that investment, you end up with the lowest part cost.”


“Generally speaking, when we’re talking about going from metal to plastic, we’re taking a metal assembly that may have multiple clips and snaps, and we’re able to mold all of those features onto one part. I can’t think of any situation offhand where we didn’t take a metal assembly of maybe a dozen parts and get the part count down to three or four or fi ve,” Kvalo said. “That does multiple good things. It gets the cost


Another advantage of plastic is cosmetic, Kvalo noted. “In many applications, plastic is going to stay newer-looking longer than steel. Steel corrodes; paint on steel scratches, but colored plastic is the same color all the way through.” Get the Lead Out Another strong impetus to move from metal to plastic is ecological: there are metals, such as lead, that can dam- age the user’s health and environment. Lead has been the go-to material for radiation shielding since the development of diagnostic X-ray, fl uoroscopy and, more recently, CAT scanning. “There’s been a real push throughout the medical industry to get rid of lead,” Kvalo noted. “We’re now making parts for some medical OEMs with a material called ‘ecomass,’ which can be alloyed with a polypropylene or a polycarbonate, depending on what the needed properties are. What makes ecomass special is that it has tungsten as a fi ller, giving the material a density close


51 — Medical Manufacturing 2015


Photo courtesy EVCO Plastics


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