Medical gauze folding machine

The challenge

At Demcon Industrial Systems, the development of industrial systems extends further than automating production lines and workspaces using mainly standard components. Demcon Industrial Systems works on high-quality, innovative production technology for manufacturing industry in the broadest sense, which can also include the field of medical technology. A great example is the Plissee machine for Humeca in Borne, a global supplier of skin transplant technology for the treatment of third-degree and other burns, using so-called MEEK technology.

Dermatologists cut donor skin from the patient into ‘skin islands’ of 3 by 3 millimetres. These are placed in a 14 x 14 grid on a carrier that the dermatologist can stretch to the dimensions required to cover as much of a burn as possible. The carrier, a laminate of aluminium foil and nylon, is first folded (plisseed) prior to stretching to the required expansion (expansion ratio from 1:2 to some 1:9). At Humeca, this used to take place using several machines and a lot of manual work. For high and consistent quality and rapid response to sudden demand (for example following a disaster), Humeca wanted to integrate and automate the folding.

The machinery they used was developed for this process only and unique in the world. Due to ageing and wearing effects, there was a great demand for a new machine to improve stability, quality, capability and capacity of their production. The material thickness is extremely critical for precise and reproducible folds. DEMCON was asked to replace the existing machines and automate the process even more to make this less operator dependent.

The solution

DEMCON invented a new folding principle to make these unique gauze products. This was tested first in a Proof-Of-Concept phase to check feasibility and minimize risks. Main outcome of this investigation was the required number of degrees of freedom to control the blade for folding. The complete machine, which contains two folding units, was developed and built in a second phase together with other process steps like laminating, cutting and rolling. The machine is able to create five different product variants fully automatic with high quality. The complete mechanical, electrical and software design was done by DEMCON, including HMI and data logging. The laminating and cutting part of the machine was outsourced to specialists and integrated. The machine was delivered and installed into the customer’s cleanroom on the 1st floor of their building.

Main characteristics

  • Unique machine that fully automatic produces medical gauzes for burn treatment
  • Newly developed folding principle invented by DEMCON Industrial Systems
  • High production quality and reliability
  • Development, realization and commissioning within 1 year

 

 

“A typical example of a well phased approach to develop a unique and innovative machine. With the feasibility phase, we managed to prove the new concept and learn about necessary improvements for the final machine. This way the overall project risk was minimized, resulting in a quick and successful implementation at the customer.”