Thickness Measurement Challenges
TESco Associates Incorporated, a specialty contract manufacturer for bio-absorbable medical implants was installing a new production system to produce tubing with extremely close tolerances. Thickness measurement of the walls of the tube was a critical measurement. Lumetrics' OptiGauge, initially intended to be a QC instrument for production, was used to provide very precise dimensions and geometry of the tubing during development. This enabled TESco to trace down exactly where the problems were in the equipment and process, dramatically reducing the time to produce product that met their customer's specifications. The net result was a drastically decreased time from startup to fine-tuning, and reduced the time to produce qualified product from 4-6 months to just weeks.
In these days of complex structures of everything from medical devices to food packaging, thickness measurement challenges continuously arise. Thickness measurement can be important for a number of reasons. Perhaps you are manufacturing a multilayer film where the inner layer provides a critical barrier property and you have to maintain a specific thickness when the film is formed into a blister package. What do you do? You may over-engineer the film by 20%, a common practice. This will be an expensive safety margin. Another alternative is to provide model simulations of the thickness measurements, but can you really trust the model when the most common way to measure those hard to reach corners and edges is manually cutting pieces and trying to see them under a microscope?
For one Lumetrics customer the thickness measurement challenge was how to measure an extremely small dipped silicone balloon. This project required the OptiGauge because touch gauges could not accurately measure the balloon either on the dipping mandrel or when the balloon was removed from the mandrel. The OptiGauge could measure thickness in either case, and because it could, the customer was able to understand and perfect the balloon molding process. In this case thickness measurement gave the customer the ability to produce a new medical device by understanding and modifying the process of making it. The customer said the OptiGauge was critical to his ability to make that product.
The OptiGauge is not just used to provide thickness measurement for medical devices but is also used by dozens of customers to provide online thickness measurement for coatings and film. The OptiGauge is currently providing critical measurements of a 5 layer film used in a diabetic test strip. Used on line with 8 probes, a single OptiGauge provides measurements of adhesive in the wet state, after it leaves the drying oven, and in its final 5 layer assembly. This provides an essential view of the complete process and has enabled the film customer to fine tune their processes and manufacture materials in which thickness measurement is a selling feature and not a problem. In a recent call with the film producer and the end user, the end user praised the quality of the film they are now receiving, thanks to the OptiGauge, and said they are able to tighten their tolerances on the final product, thereby providing a superior product to the end user.
No matter what your thickness measurement challenge, call Lumetrics and consult with our experts to see if there is an OptiGauge solution right for you.
SELECTED RESOURCE MATERIAL:
- Why New Inspection Methods Can Cost Less - MDTmag.com - November/December 2012, authored by Steve Heveron-Smith, Lumetrics®