In the development of new products for medical technology, there is a large gap between the creation of a new product and its further development to series manufacturing readiness with industrial production. PIA Automation helps close this gap, and together with a well-known customer, has now finalized a proof of principle for the automated production of electronic patch systems for cancer therapy.
Wearing an electronic patch prevents cell division in tumors by alternating electric fields. Electromagnetic stimulation inhibits the spread of the tumor and stops progression of the patient's disease. Until now, these patches were manufactured exclusively by hand. Due to increasing quality requirements and quantities, the manufacturer intends to automate production, while minimizing investment risk.
Partnering with the customer, PIA conducted a preliminary study for automating processes through proof-of-principle. The benefit of preliminary studies lies in the combination of expertise from automation with the requirements of the manufacturer. With PIA’s more than 40 years of experience and mastery of a wide variety of processes from more than 8,000 realized plants, we offer the necessary infrastructure for a test series of this kind. In this specific case, PIA's own flexible process module was adapted to the various manufacturing processes for producing the electronic patch. For this purpose, several stations, robots, and handling systems were integrated in order to simulate and test the steps in an automated sequence:
- removal of the protective foils from the patch
- removal of an electrode array incl. cable from a tray and placing and pressing it onto the plaster
- camera inspections to check for damage to the electrode arrays
- application of contact gel on the upper side of the plaster
- reapplication of protective foils
Bending slack and self-adhesive parts with minimal tolerances are always a challenge. In the PIA trial, the difficulty lay in the precise handling of the foils and electrode arrays. All tests were documented during the project by both video and photos. The customer therefore did not have to be on site for the tests and experienced the processes as well as received the results live in virtual meetings and analyzed them with the PIA experts.
After all tests were complete, the findings were summarized in the final report in whichthe PIA qualification department evaluates them in detail. Thus, the manufacturer can easily deduce whether it is economical to automate the product or what changes are required to the product to make production efficient. With the insight of such knowledge gained from preliminary studies, a production plant can be designed more quickly and significantly minimize process risks in advance. This in turn reduces the realization time and investment risk and thus enables a faster time-to-market and ROI for the customer.
By constantly investing in new developments, processes, and test series, as well as pooling the cross-industry global expertise of the entire group, PIA Automation provides the decisive advantage for its customers.