Schmidt Technology has designed and manufactured specialist servo presses, some integrated with robotic handling systems, to enable Millipore to increase productivity, reduce downtime and minimise scrap in its membrane filter cutting lines.
Custom-built servo presses, all designed and manufactured by Schmidt Technology, are helping Millipore reduce downtime on its membrane filter cutting lines at its facility in Ireland. In addition, the presses are enabling the company to minimise scrap materials by optimising the number of elements produced from each roll of filter media, with the combined result that payback has been achieved in around nine months for several of the presses.
Millipore is one of the world's leading developers and producers of advanced products and services for the bioscience research and biopharmaceutical manufacturing sectors. Among Millipore's core products are specialised filtration equipment and filter media for use in applications ranging from the production of purified water in laboratories, to cell culture and analysis. Many of the filter components are produced at the company's plant in Ireland. Vincent Smith, Millipore's Senior Project Engineer, says: "We manufacture both membrane filter media and complete filter units for use in critical blood diagnostics and laboratory procedures by our customers around the world. In recent years we have invested heavily in our manufacturing facilities in Ireland and, wherever possible, have automated each aspect of the production process, with the goal of minimising our costs while increasing productivity, quality and the level of service to our customers."
High productivity and repeatability
A key part of the automation programme has been the installation of eight servo presses for cutting individual filter discs from rolls of specialised media. The presses have been installed over several years as production requirements have increased, and have to provide extremely high levels of accuracy and repeatability - to within plus or minus 0.1mm - and handle a variety of media measuring between 150 and 320mm in width.
The first automatic machine from Schmidt Technology was installed about five years ago and replaced an existing multi-stage press tool. Smith states: "This had an immediate impact on productivity. Perhaps as importantly, the reliability of the system has been excellent as the machine is still operating today, having completed well over 40million cycles with no downtime apart from routine maintenance."
More recently, Schmidt Technology has installed several presses that are integrated with robot handling systems, enabling Millipore to shorten production times and make significant reductions in scrap material.
Although the standard Schmidt ServoPress units are designed as modular systems, to be easy to setup and use, the unique production requirements at Millipore required Schmidt to carry out considerable development and engineering work at its customer support centre in the UK. This work included the design of dedicated tooling, plus robotic loading and unloading stations, and machine safety and guarding systems. In addition, Schmidt UK provided programming expertise for the dedicated press controls, which provide a simple but advanced operator interface giving sophisticated monitoring, control and analysis functions, with the ability to be linked directly to higher-level plant management networks.
Smith adds: "Without the expertise of Schmidt's design and engineering team in the UK we would not have been able to carry out these ongoing improvements at our production facilities in Ireland. They have provided an excellent standard of technical support and have taken the time both to understand the particular challenges of our production operation and to integrate members of our production team in their design and build processes. This has enabled us jointly to develop extremely effective solutions, which, combined with the level of reliability of Schmidt's machine systems, have had a real and measurable impact on our business."