Canadian Plastics

Engel, Hack Formenbau partner on high-volume system that molds COVID-19 test swabs

The two longtime collaborators have developed an integrated system that allows plastics processors to produce two-component test swabs in high volumes and with short lead times.

June 2, 2020   Canadian Plastics

The system is based on a tie-bar-less, hydraulic, two-component Engel victory press and an integrated Engel viper linear robot for part removal. Credit: Engel

With the demand for test swabs for nasal and throat swab tests showing no signs of slowing down, Austria-based injection molding equipment manufacturer Engel and longtime collaborator moldmaker Hack Formenbau GmbH have developed an integrated system that allows plastics processors to produce two-component test swabs in high volumes and with short lead times.

The nasal and throat test swabs are composed of a rigid thermoplastic handle and thermoplastic elastomer tip to reduce patient discomfort. Hack Formenbau developed the two-component design, initially with three different tip designs.

The test swabs have a stable thermoplastic handle and a head made of a thermoplastic elastomer to make the examination less uncomfortable for the patient. Hack Formenbau developed this two-component design, initially with three different head design proposals. “We adapt the handle length and shape, the design of the swab head and the materials individually to suit customer requirements,” said Gunnar Hack, CEO and owner of Germany-based Hack Formenbau. The goal was to combine high product quality with high-volume output and cost-effectiveness.

With a 32-cavity mold and a cycle time of 6 to 8 seconds, processors can achieve an output of up to 320 test swabs per minute and 460,000 test swabs per day with a single production unit, Engel said, thanks to an integrated production process that Engel specifically adapts to the mold solution developed by Hack Formenbau. “The process is based on a tie-bar-less, hydraulic, two-component Engel victory injection molding machine with an integrated Engel viper linear robot for fully automated removal and depositing of the swabs,” Engel said in a statement. The victory machine is equipped with iQ weight control for high process consistency. The smart assistance system, part of Engel’s inject 4.0 program, detects fluctuations in the raw material and ambient conditions and automatically compensates for them shot by shot.

Engel and Hack Formenbau both anticipate that the mold and system solution to make these test swabs will not be used exclusively for coronavirus test swabs. The firms are also jointly developing highly efficient complete systems for the production of swabs for influenza tests or gynaecological examinations.


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