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In any manufacturing environment, including life science manufacturing, it is difficult to evaluate a process that cannot be quantified and measured. But today's precision dispensing technologies provide many ways for medical OEMs to achieve accurate, repeatable, and measureable results.

Nordson EFD 781Mini spray valve directs nozzle air pressure more consistently for uniform spray patterns.

This article looks at 12 examples that show how a change in technique can lead to better results — better control, better part-to-part consistency, reduced costs, a safer work environment, and even a greener operation. In each case, a dispensing technique goes from one that is uncontrolled and unmeasurable to one that is controlled, highly repeatable, and highly measureable. For each example, a list of typical fluids and products is provided, along with a brief summary of relevant examples. Two additional fluid dispensing techniques — semi-automation and jetting — are also discussed at the end of the article.

Spraying and Coating

Fluid types:

  • Silicones
  • Antimicrobials
  • Anticoagulants
  • Lubricants

Typical products:

  • Stents
  • Hypodermic needles
  • Pills
  • ID/OD of tubes/syringes

1. From handheld spray bottle to spray valve. When an orthopedic equipment manufacturer replaced the use of a manually operated spray bottle with a precision spray valve to flush contamination from a product in its final stage of production, it changed an inexact, unmeasurable method to a precise and measurable process.

Now the company knows exactly how much fluid is used to flush each product and for how long. This provides a cost savings across multiple areas, including less fluid use, greater productivity, and a more controlled process that provides exact data to demonstrate regulatory and safety compliance.

Nordson EFD HP× high-pressure dispensing tool can produce up to 700 psi (48.2 bar) of dispensing pressure.

Key takeaway: Moving from a manual to a more automated dispensing process delivers benefits far beyond just fluid savings.

2. From one type of valve to another. A glass tube manufacturer in Asia was using a locally sourced spray valve and spin cap that did not meet stringent quality controls, thus causing problems such as overspray and inconsistent fluid patterns. When the company changed to a spray valve and spin cap from a different source, its overspray and application problems disappeared.

In many cases, switching from a lower-quality component to a higher-quality component in a dispensing system is an investment that pays for itself quickly by eliminating the extra costs caused by poor application quality and high reject rates.

Key takeaway: This is a great example of the fact that cost savings are in every process — it is important to look even closer at the products that may put a dispensing process at risk.

3. From cotton swab to radial spinner. In this example, a clinical consumables company achieved a stunning 70 percent process reduction time by switching the manual application of a silicone oil in the inside of a vial (using a cotton swab) to a radial spinner dispense valve system.

The problems caused by the cotton swab application method were significant: multiple operators were required to keep up with production, the fluid amount applied varied greatly by operator, spills on the product and the work surface were inescapable, and the rework rate was 50 percent (and those were just the most critical issues).

Changing to a radial spinner that evenly sprayed a specific volume of fluid into the vial virtually eliminated rejects and rework, meaning a significant savings in production. It also eliminated the need for multiple operators, which meant another significant savings in production cost.

Key takeaway: Oftentimes, a simple operation isn't always quite so simple — companies can benefit from a dramatic payback by researching their hidden costs.

Filling

Fluid types:

  • Medical gels
  • Reagents
  • Solvents
  • Solutions

Typical products:

  • Tubes
  • Vials
  • Syringes
  • Glass and plastic containers

4. From manual filling to robot. Many life sciences applications require precision in both the amount of fluid dispensed and in the precise placement of that fluid. A reagent distributor who replaced a manual filling process with a robotic, valve-based filling process was able to greatly reduce problems with inconsistent fill volumes and spillage. A robot, unlike a human operator, can dispense exactly the same amount of fluid into the exact same location time and time again for extremely accurate and stable process control.

Key takeaway: Semi-automated dispensing robots provide a much higher level of process control and accuracy since they are less dependent on operator variability.

5. From one valve to three. Although it might seem like a cost savings to use only one dispensing valve to do the job of three, the reality is that it costs more to address the problems caused by such a process than it does to use more valves. When a single valve is used to dispense three different fluids at different points of the process, the primary problem is cross-contamination, which results in increased rework and product reject rates.

In this example, a diagnostics company switched from using one valve to fill vials to a three-valve dispense system. Previously, the one valve was used for three different agents, which meant manual flushing and cleanup between each fluid change. By installing two additional valves, which then allowed one valve to be dedicated to each fluid, the company not only greatly reduced cleaning, flushing, and prep costs, but also showed increased compliance with regulatory requirements. The resulting cost savings more than made up for the onetime cost of installing the extra valves.

Key takeaway: Investing in the right equipment for a process saves money in the long run by eliminating costly labor-intensive operations.

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