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Masterpiece

It is not simply the high-performance plastics made by Röchling that are more than complex – the tools and machines used to produce them are pretty complicated, too. This is why they are not produced just anywhere. Instead, this job of manufacturing them is entrusted to a team of the company’s own experts. A team of 18 tool makers and six trainees works at the location in Waldachtal alone. Ingenuity and dexterity are the qualities that members of this team need. We met with one of these tool designers – and one of his masterpieces.

The machine

 

Tack, tack, tack – a completed syringe barrel plunges from the machine form every 20 seconds. Three shifts a day, around the clock. That adds up to about 9,000 barrels each day. The force behind the production operation: injection molding machine No. 45303375. Its mission in life: to produce syringe barrels for dental syringes. It is a challenging job. Just like everything involved in medical technology, dental syringes must be completely hygienic and be produced under strict cleanroom conditions. Quality must be first class as well. In the end, the wall thickness of the plastic syringe barrel must be exactly the same everywhere.

Always in high gear: This machine produces about 9,000 barrels for dental syringes every day.

The production process of a barrel, or the cycle time, takes about 20 seconds for a dental syringe barrel. Twenty seconds in which hot plastic melt is injected into the machine, hardened – and drops from the form as a completed barrel. But the dental syringe barrels do not just fall from the machine as a result of a simple open-and-close motion as they do with most machines. The hollow tube and the curved form of the syringe barrel add extra complexity to the production process. As a result of the curve, the core element, or plunger, of 45303375 has to rotate in a particular way during the withdrawal process. To accomplish this task, it needs the right type of plunger control, as the experts call it. During the filling phase, the plunger also has to be correctly supported and held in place – a process in which powerful forces come into play. As a result, the 45303375 is made of high-alloy steel and tilts the scales at 365 kilograms.

The masterpiece is a one-of-a-kind machine. Its price added up to a mid-range five-digit figure. It took some time before 45303375 was ready for series production. Coordination, construction, machine assembly, the prototype phase and validation were begun in 2017 and took nearly a year. But the intensive preliminary work has paid off when you consider the machine’s high performance each day.

The maker

 

Thomas Seeger is the inventor of more than 100 tools. He has been working as a tool mechanic at Röchling Medical Waldachtal, which was formerly Frank plastic, for 12 years. As a result, he is a real resource and expert in the use of steel and customers’ highly specialized needs. Seeger loves the challenge almost a little bit more than the material of steel: “I like to build really complicated machines that may be somewhat problematic in the beginning but will end up being that much more successful in the end,” he says. 45303375, the machine for syringe barrels, is one of them.

In addition to creating prototypes and construction, Seeger maintains and optimizes the machines at the plant location. Thanks to the short distances at the company and its deep base of knowledge, he can do so at Waldachtal without wasting a lot of time. “This is a huge competitive edge because every minute counts in series production,” he says. “We are right here. That means that we don’t have to do any expensive machine shipping or coordinate with a third party.”

Tool engineering technician Thomas Seeger and one of his masterpieces: machine 45303375. Seeger has created about 100 other machines in addition to this gem.

The training program for tool design technicians lasts 3.5 years. “But, like so many other things, you still have a lot to learn afterward. Every tool and machine is different, and that is why the job is so full of variety,” Seeger says. To create a functioning machine from an abundance of parts, it takes much precision, patience and work done ever so carefully by hand. Equally important: team work. After all, no such machine is ever built by a single individual. Seeger works with seven other people. They make sure that the huge array of individual parts show up on his work bench in the first place. Seeger handles the assembly and precise adjustment himself. “Every one has his own specialty here and can contribute his knowledge,” he says.

Seeger and his colleagues always remain up to date so that they can provide customers with the right advice about part geometry and perfectly train young employees. They expand their knowledge base by attending training course, listening to talks, visiting trade fairs, reading professional journals and, not least, learning by doing. This process also enables machines to be made to last for the longest-possible time and to be sustainable. Depending on the machines’ design, Röchling Medical Waldachtal provides its customers with a manufacturers’ warranty that ranges from a few thousand units to several million, because the intensity of the machine’s use makes such a big difference. 

But what happens when a machine has reached the end of its service life? “It will either be mothballed at the customer’s site – or scrapped,” Seeger says. 45303375 will be sent into retirement one day, too. But that is a long time – and many dental syringe barrels – from now. Until then, it will continue to go: tack, tack, tack.

Features The machine The maker
Name 45303375 Thomas Seeger
Occupation Mold injection machine for dental syringe barrels Tool engineering technician
Age 1.5 years Top secret
Dimensions 29.6 x 44.6 x 39.0 cm 175 cm
In use at Röchling Since 2018 Since 2007
Production level 9,000 syringe barrels per day More than 100 different machines in 12 years
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