In the process of producing a multi-layered label with an NFC chip, CSI Medical did more than just manufacture a solution for a client. They manufactured an opportunity.
Finding smarter ways to do things is part of the fun of the converting business. It’s what gets an engineer out of bed in the morning, and keeps them at their desk late at night. This was the case with the engineering team at CSI Medical, and it’s why they took on, and delivered, a job for a medical device client.
Full disclosure: CSI Medical is a customer of ours. You can treat this blog post as a case study, but we think of it as more of a study in innovation. A lesson in how, sometimes in this business, you have to say “yes, we can do that” even when you’ve never “done it” in the past.
Making One Label Instead of Two
Lane Shaver is an Engineering Manager at CSI Medical, a rotary die cutter of flexible materials. They focus on medical manufacturers, such as wound care products, dressings, drapes and other products.
Lane Shaver, CSI Medical
CSI Medical’s client in this story is a manufacturer of medical devices. They were tagging their equipment, particularly medical drapes, with an NFC chip. The purpose of putting the label with a chip on the drape is to heat the drape and to ensure the correct drape is being used. In addition to the chip, the label was to also include the client’s logo.
“The customer came to us and asked to make two separate labels – one with the NFC chip and one with their logo,” said Lane. “We asked them, why not just make one label? That’s what we do.”
Multi-layering Not New, but Challenges Nevertheless
The customer wasn’t familiar with the concept of multi-layering. We’ve blogged about how companies like Action have created similar products for the auto industry. While the concept is not new, the execution of each specific job has a series of unique challenges.
In this case, the most daunting part was the fact that the manufacturer wanted the end product on a roll two inches apart. The NFC chip came in at ¾ inches apart on the roll. CSI Medical had to place it on the right location on the web, so the die could cut it in the correct place.
CSI Medical wanted to produce the multi-layered label in one press run, instead of creating the labels one at a time. That’s where the experimentation came in, and the challenge for Lane and his team.
You Can’t Go It Alone: Initial Attempts Were Unsuccessful
The typical process for a converter is to develop with a method for improving a process, and then attempt to execute with the equipment at hand. Lane and his team devised a method for their own equipment, and hunkered down for a weekend to produce the first batch.
The two days proved to be a study in frustration, as Lane and the production team spent 16 hours and made only 900 parts. “I don’t mind working the 16 hours,” he said, “as long as we’re making a million parts.”
Even worse, the final products were usable, but they weren’t meeting the specs. Over 50% of the output was scrap, adding more cost to the final product.
Lane called the client’s supplier engineer, and explained that in the current state, they wouldn’t be able to deliver the product according to spec. “I then told them we need the equipment to do it, but we needed their commitment to buy the parts,” he said.
The client agreed, and Lane reached out to the engineers at Delta ModTech for collaboration.
Moving the Web at Different Speeds
To provide a solution, Delta engineers showed how a module they call an Island Transfer Station (patent pending) could move the chip from one web and place it in another, even though the two webs were moving at different speeds.
Here’s a video of how the Island Transfer Station works:
CSI Medical shared the specs and the process with Delta ModTech, and soon they received the Island Transfer module. According to Lane, in the first run, they went from 50% scrap rate down to 12%. “We figure we’ll get it down to 2-5% the more we use it,” Lane said.
Press time improved as well. They went from producing 900 parts in 16 hours to 3,000 parts in 2.5 hours. A rather substantial improvement.
CSI Medical was also able to use a camera for inspection purposes, and they found they were now meeting the specs.
Possibilities for the Future All Based on “Can,” Not “Can’t”
NFC chips are becoming increasingly popular. For example, a hospital using the device can determine if a hospital drape had been used, and if it is sterilized.
The chips could be used in many hospital scenarios. For example, the chips could be in operating room “lap” sponges, to ensure that a used sponge is accounted for at the end of a procedure and doesn’t remain in a patient.
The big takeaway is that collaboration, advanced equipment, and the ability to strive for a solution where one did not previously exist can open all kinds of doors.
It’s not a matter of “if” you can do it. It’s “how.” And it’s the people with that mindset who win in this business.