How Oertli prototypes medical packaging in 24 hours with pressure forming
In recent years, hardware manufacturers have discovered firsthand that outsourcing and adhering to rigid prototyping workflows can have both positive and negative consequences. As a result, many have turned to desktop manufacturing to regain control over critical component design that demands maximum flexibility.
Malte Heuer is a Development Engineer and Product Manager at Oertli Instrumente AG, a company that specializes in producing high-quality surgical devices and medical instruments for ophthalmology. The company is based in the St. Gall Rhine Valley, where it exclusively develops and manufactures its products to ensure Swiss quality, precision, and reliability.
Malte introduced the Mayku Multiplier and its pressure forming technology to the R&D and engineering departments. By relying on desktop pressure forming, Oertli demonstrates that in-house agile prototyping can significantly improve efficiency and output quality.
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Inside the Oertli R&D facility
Oertli Instruments' headquarters, along with their R&D facility for developing and testing their latest products and innovations, are located in the St. Gall Rhine Valley. The R&D facility has a wide range of manufacturing technologies, including resin 3D printing, FDM 3D printing, and other prototyping equipment.
Using this expanding range of technologies gives the company a competitive edge by enabling them to design, test, and iterate faster every day.
From frustration to innovation
Despite Oertli's heavy investment in sustainability, innovative strength and equipment improvements, hardware development poses some challenges. Until recently, medical equipment packaging was one of these challenges.
Within Oertli, the usual packaging prototyping process was slow and involved outsourcing the prototype-making to the final thermoforming packaging supplier, with each design iteration round taking 3 weeks and each packaging component requiring between 2-6 design rounds.
The R&D team would design the packaging and manufacture a limited visual prototype using FDM 3D printing. This prototype wouldn’t have any functionality, as the packaging undercuts that hold the components in place wouldn’t be flexible enough. A functional prototype couldn’t be printed with any 3D printing technology due to the reduced wall thickness.
Once approved by the product management team, the design would be sent to the packaging supplier, who would make a prototype in approximately three weeks. The functional prototype would then be shipped back, tested by customers, and feedback would be gathered. This process would be repeated until the perfect design was found.
Bringing the agile methodology to manufacturing
This design iteration process was inefficient, and when Malte took charge of the medical packaging prototyping, he put his SCRUM master skills into practice, looking for a technology that would make prototyping more agile. A fast Google search looking for desktop but powerful thermoforming machines revealed the Multiplier and Malte quickly saw its potential within Oertli, acquiring it from our Swiss partner Dim3nsions.
Malte was able to easily integrate the Multiplier in the existing prototyping workflow, preserving key aspects that were already efficient and optimizing those that caused issues. He still uses Solidworks to design the packaging prototype. However, instead of 3D printing a visual prototype to present to the product management team and then outsourcing to the packaging supplier, he 3D prints a thermoforming template of the design. He then uses the Multiplier to create a 3-10 high-fidelity prototypes that he presents to the team and testers. All of this can be done within a day.
If product management requests a small change during a meeting, it used to take three weeks to implement and schedule an update meeting. Now the change can be made within a day and a meeting can be scheduled for the following day, and everyone remembers the details of yesterday's meeting.— Malte Heuer - Development Engineer and Product Manager at Oertli Instrumente AG
Malte decided to go with a high-pressure former like the Mayku Multiplier due to the requirements of the high-fidelity prototypes. A tolerance of +-0.1mm was needed to evaluate the designs, and that level of accuracy was not possible with other technologies such as vacuum forming.
The ROI of in-house pressure forming
Bringing high-fidelity prototyping in-house has allowed Oertli to remain an innovative and agile company. They can respond to engineering demands and team feedback almost instantly, without any waste or inefficiencies that a typical hardware manufacturer would face when prototyping.
The fast cycling times that started in software now come down to the whole mechanical department— Malte Heuer - Development Engineer and Product Manager at Oertli Instrumente AG
Using the Multiplier, Oertli has reduced the design iteration cycle from three weeks to just one day. They have also reduced the cost of prototyping cycles by over 90%, while still being able to create high-fidelity prototypes. Additionally, they can now prototype in-house, allowing them to take full control of the process.
Moreover, implementing the Multiplier into existing workflows is so simple that Malte introduced this technology to other teams. He recognized that the high quality and fast production it offers would have a positive impact company-wide.
If you want to learn more about the Multiplier and its potential applications, be sure to check out our Applications page, where you can find more inspiration and insights.
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