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Top 5 Reasons Why the Type of Thermoforming Machine Your Medical Product Packaging Supplier Uses Matters!

Thermoforming Plastics for Medical Product Packaging

Thermoforming is a popular manufacturing process used to mold plastics for all kinds of products. During the thermoforming process, plastic sheeting is heated to a pliable temperature, molded into shape, and trimmed to create various parts and packaging for products we use every day. Advantages over other popular plastic manufacturing processes such as injection molding include lower tooling costs, rapid product development and prototyping, a more comprehensive range of possible sizes and shapes, more color and texture options, and almost infinite adaptability.

One sector that has greatly benefited from advances in plastics is the medical supply chain. Medical-grade plastics have enabled a combination of sterile barrier solutions, safety, cost-containment, and manufacturability that have greatly improved patient outcomes. Thermoforming is the most common production process for manufacturing packaging for medical devices and lab equipment, which require a sterile manufacturing environment.

While thermoforming is a mature and well-understood technology in the medical supply chain, there are still subtle differences in manufacturing processes that deserve attention when choosing a medical product packaging supplier. In addition to strict adherence to the various levels of cleanroom requirements published by ISO, there is a critical differentiator that enables one plastic packaging supplier to perform beyond others.

The type of thermoforming machine used affects almost every performance metric in medical product package manufacturing.

The Sencorp Ultra

All thermoforming machines are not created equal, and there is one, in particular, that stands out above the rest for its ability to deliver on a wide range of packaging requirements. The Sencorp Ultra offers superior performance in various ways that benefit both the manufacturer and the entire value chain. Sencorp calls their thermoformer the “workhorse of the industry,” and plastic packaging manufacturers that invest in this machine quickly learn why. With the ability to handle blister, clamshell, and stretch packaging, a 111-inch 42-zone radiant quartz oven, and a 115-ton trim press, this machine’s speed and versatility are unmatched. It’s easy to understand why those who spend their careers optimizing thermoforming manufacturing processes get excited about this machine.

But the real question is, “Why should medical product suppliers care what kind of machine manufactures their packaging?” There are five critical reasons why the kind of thermoforming machine used makes a difference.

Plastics and The Environment

Top of mind for everyone who touches the plastic packaging industry in any way is the environment. In the medical sector, single-use plastics are critical for delivering high-quality care to patients and keeping caregivers safe. Single-use plastics provide a lower risk of infection in the clinical environment and a lower risk of cross-contamination in the laboratory environment.

PlasticsToday has reported on past initiatives to recycle medical plastics in hospital settings, principally involving packaging and other items that were not exposed to patients or contamination. The outcomes generally were problematic. One article  concluded that properly sorting recyclables in intense hospital environments was “fraught with difficulty and that the economic value was not sufficient in the current climate.”

While the issues around single-use plastics are complicated at best, there is one thing the production facility can do to reduce the amount of plastic in medical products. The Sencorp Ultra can use less plastic while achieving equal if not better integrity or strength than other machines. Its heavy-duty rail transport system allows for less material use and less waste.

Time-to-Market

There has never been a time more illustrative of the need to quickly ramp medical-grade materials than the year 2020 and the battle against COVID-19. From face shields to hand sanitizer bottles to plastic barriers for separating cubicles, the need to protect essential workers in healthcare and food service from the virus’s spread became priority number one. Shortages of these essential items hampered efforts to contain COVID-19. Manufactures rushed to ready their production lines to manufacture personal protective equipment (PPE) and produce enough to meet worldwide demand from the multiple Coronavirus surges.

The thermoformed process is perfect for medical products that urgently need to achieve a fast time-to-market.  By driving heat into the medical grade sheet, thermoforming enables a high integrity package that can pass medical validation requirements the first time. That being said, production time varies among thermoforming machines, and the Sencorp Ultra is the fastest. 40% shorter cycle times and an integrated robotic stacking system make it the go-to equipment for the fastest possible ramp of mission-critical, medical-grade plastics.

 

Scale

Similar to the ability to meet fast times to market is the ability to scale.  If you have ever chosen a vendor that delivers the first few hundred of a new product but then fails to produce higher volumes when demand for your product takes off, then you know why the ability to scale is essential. Delivering 1000 medical device packages should be as easy as delivering 1,000,000 or even 10,000,000.  And the quality and speed of delivery should be repeatable such that the 10,000,000th part produced is as good as the first.

The high throughput of the Sencorp Ultra, with Siemens S7 series PLC controls, deliver repeatable, consistent quality at low volumes and high volumes.

 

Product Size 

There is always a cost associated with every individual supplier a company needs to bring into its supply chain, and not every manufacturer can deliver both large and small size medical-grade plastics.    Working with a plastic manufacturer that uses Sencorp Ultra machines allows customers to work with one supplier for the broadest possible range of sizes and shapes, textures and colors for the widest variety of products.  One supplier can create one-ounce plastic bottles for hand sanitizer, face visors, and 36-inch plastic barriers, all in the same factory.

 

PETG

The ability to process PETG is an essential requirement for the production of medical-grade plastics.  PETG (Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol) is an additive for plastics that need to go through extreme heat to achieve a sterile environment. Due to its strength, clarity, surface qualities, and low cost, PETG is used to make sterile, single-use disposable containers for cell cultures and many other biomedical applications.

PETG is used with thermoforming for medical product packaging because it holds up well to heat sealing, radio frequency sealing, chemical sterilization, UV light, and other techniques required to keep products sterile and ready for medical use.  Medical product packaging, electronic equipment covers, internal components, sidewalls, and even hospital room panels take advantage of thermoformed PETG to keep environments sterile and patients safe.

 

Tru-Form Plastics is here to serve your medical product packaging needs.

Now that you know why it matters, choose a medical product packaging supplier with the best thermoforming machines available to suit ALL your medical plastic needs. With manufacturing based 100% in the United States, at Tru-Form Plastics, we pride ourselves on delivering the most environmentally friendly PETG packaging for medical products. We provide our customers with packaging options others cannot, meeting your needs for small packaging up to 72 inches long by 34 inches wide. Our high-throughput Sencorp Ultra machine enables us to achieve the fastest delivery across North America, whether you are launching a niche product or need millions per month.

Reach out to us today with your medical product packaging needs.

Buena Park School District Receives Face Shields from TFP


Buena Park School District recently received a donation of 37,000 see-through face shields to protect students, teachers and staff, providing an additional barrier to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The District received the face shields from Westminster-based company Tru-Form Plastics, which is a division of American Innotek. Tru-Form Plastics Engineer Ed Hentges, a Buena Park resident and friend of Beatty Middle School Principal Erik Bagger, recommended that his company donate face shields to protect students and staff during the pandemic.

To read the full story, click here.

How to Reduce Single-Use Plastic Waste in Medical & Dental Offices

In medical and dental offices, single-use plastics are easy and convenient. Although this may be true, the continuous use of these plastics increases the carbon footprint, making it detrimental to the earth. Without the earth, we won’t need medical or dental offices, right?

The pandemic has forced everyone to take a long, hard look at the way things are done. As items become scarce, the need to re-use products becomes a priority. In turn, this creates new opportunities to recycle, reduce waste, and reduce our carbon footprint on the environment.

As a result, medical and dental offices have begun using face shields as part of their personal protective equipment.

What are face shields?

Face shields are protective masks healthcare workers now use for extra protection. They are especially important in medical and dental facilities due to close contact procedures taking place and more effective in the prevention and spread of bacteria and viruses. Created with PETG thermoplastic polyester, the shield covers the entire face to avoid splatter from either party. One of the benefits of using face shields is that they can be sanitized for continual reuse.

Tru-Form Plastics provides three different styles of face shields: standard, deluxe and industrial. Advantages of these face shields:

  • Can be sanitized for continual reuse
  • Lightweight and can be worn for long periods
  • Does not fog up
  • Additional foam pad provides additional ventilation
  • PETG does not break down in UV light
  • Plastic is much thicker than others

Cleaning and sanitizing face shields

Properly cleaning a face shield without ruining it is key. Additionally, ensuring the cleaning agent is sterile enough to sanitize the face shield is important. Each medical and dental facility using face shields should have a cleaning protocol in place on how to do this. The use of a mild liquid detergent along with a soft cloth or sponge works well. The face shield must be thoroughly rinsed and dried with a soft cotton or microfiber cloth.

If the shield is cleaned with a surface disinfectant, it may leave a residue, which makes it ineffective for use. If alcohol wipes are used, all directions should be followed to ensure the shield is dry and residue-free.

Removing single-use plastics from medical facilities

Single-use plastics help prevent infection in medical and dental offices. They are also affordable and convenient for staff and patients. In order to get a handle on the harm being done to the environment, alternative uses must become a priority. Here are a few ways single-use plastics can be removed:

  • Cups – Plastic cups are very sanitary and widely used throughout medical and dental facilities. Switching from plastic to paper will help.
  • Toothpaste tube and floss containers – While plastic tubes are used and distributed in dental offices, advising the staff and patients to recycle their plastics after use can help cut waste and reduce harm to the environment.
  • Plastic tips – These are used for air, water and suction but can be switched out for reusable sterile ones.
  • Plastic barrier sleeves – These sleeves are used to cover air and water syringes to prevent cross-contamination but are usually one use. Finding an alternative for this would be key.
  • Propylaxis angles – These are the cups that hold toothpaste for polishing. In most cases, they are disposable rubber. By switching to metal or recycled plastic that can be reused, this will help in reducing plastic waste.

Dental and medical professionals have a lot to consider while providing the best care and safety for their patients. As a whole, the healthcare industry can work on doing their part to prevent the use of single-use plastics and help protect the environment. These professionals have a duty to help protect the environment and are favorably viewed among their patients when going green. In time, the cost savings will outweigh the extra efforts and will help in creating sustainable practices in their facilities.

How Can Dentists Use Plastics to Protect Patients?

In this era of COVID-19, protecting patients is more crucial than ever. Although patients may come into the facility for services wearing a mask, what happens when it’s time for them to sit in the chair? There are a few things dental offices and dentists can do to protect themselves and their patients, such as wearing plastic face shields.

What are plastic face shields?

Plastic face shields help provide barriers between the dentist and patient. Although the actual face shield is made of plastic, these shields are designed to prevent the spread of infection. They are cleaned and disinfected on a continuous basis to maintain the integrity of the shield.

Face shields are a good solution for dentists because they don’t have to be touched while working with the patient. Additionally, they don’t itch like face masks do, which also works as a preventative measure against touching the face. Tru-Form Plastics are a leader in this area.

What’s so special about Tru-Form Plastics?

Tru-Form face shields are lightweight, allowing consistent motion and the ability to see multiple patients at a time. The face shield does not fog, and the smaller foam pad adds an additional layer of ventilation. Tru-Form’s plastic is also more than twice as thick as other face shields on the market, creating a more durable shield to work with. The shields come in 3 different options: standard, deluxe, and industrial.

These shields are constructed with PETG material, mentioned as one of the best materials for face shields by the FDA. PETG does not break down in UV light, providing a much longer shelf life than shields made with PVC or other materials. Tru-Form Plastics uses the thermoforming process, which is heating a thermoplastic sheet until it is soft enough to stretch over a mold where it cools and solidifies into a desired shape for use.

How are diseases and infections transferred in a dental office?

There are a number of ways diseases and infections can be transferred. This includes by direct contact or droplets of blood and saliva. Additionally, if tools and areas touched by the dental professionals are not properly sanitized, this increases the likelihood of infection.

Safety is the first priority

Using plastics in dental offices helps reduces the risk of exposure, transference of germs and infection for employees and patients. Barriers, or Sani-Shields work to protect office workers while remaining compliant with social distancing guidelines where high traffic is the norm. Lightweight and easy to install, each shield is customizable.

Face shields are for protection against spray and splatter without interfering with line of sight. Additionally, face shields should be large enough to protect the face and head. Since these are reused, proper care and cleaning procedures should be implemented. This involves using surface disinfectant wipes and other solutions approved by the manufacturer.

Dental health workers are deemed high risk, so proper PPE is key. That means covering all dental tools and disinfecting them on a continuous basis. This may also involve keeping them in protective covers until used. Cleaning face shields away from patients will also help in alleviating the spread of germs.

To find out more about how Tru-Form Plastics can be beneficial in protecting your dental office, contact our team today!

Tru-Form Featured in KCAL News

Tru-Form Plastics Featured on CBS News in Los Angeles

In case you missed it, Tru-Form Plastics was featured on the news! We were fortunate to share our story behind our shift during the production of plastic face shields for medical workers and staff working on the frontlines. We’re now producing over 100,000 per day, working 24-hour shifts, 6 days a week, We are excited to be ramping up production even more!

Tru-Form Plastics Goode for Smart Industry

Pivoting to Mass Produce PPE for Frontlines Medical Professionals, By Jim Goode, American Innotek

To help address the global shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) as hospitals, businesses and communities aim to protect against the continued spread of COVID-19, many companies across the country have taken tremendous initiatives to pivot their businesses to develop and produce masks and shields by the thousands. These producers range from businesses who already manufactured medical equipment (like ours) to companies whose typical function is way outside of the medical device space (like Nike).

Jim Goode, President of American Innotek

Regardless of the magnitude of new PPE producing processes, making this change requires organizational agility in order to support the production of a new product, maintain demands for typical business functions and ensure the employees needed for production are taken care of in a global pandemic. At Tru-form Plastics, we added staff to support a 6-day work week and produce more than 100,000 face shields per day. Here are some of the lessons we’ve taken from that shift.

Listen to Health Professionals

When our engineering & tooling manager, Ed Hentges, was approached to develop a PPE shortage solution, he immediately got with the director of the supply chain at a local hospital to brainstorm the face shield. Once an original prototype was designed, he went to the hospital to work directly with doctors and nurses and made adjustments until a workable solution was in place. Rather than making assumptions or waiting for delays by mailing the mask, he was able to quickly design the best solution with hands-on feedback, which allowed us to go from concept to the production line in just a few days.

Nimble Staffing Decisions

To support mass production of a new product – on top of existing manufacturing needs – it’s important to ensure flexibility in staffing decisions. For us, this included the addition of more than 60 temporary workers in our Southern California facilities. We are also fortunate to have an amazing workforce who were also willing to be flexible with their schedules as we added new shifts to allow for 24-hour production, 6 days per week. 

While it’s one thing for your business to have flexibility, it’s also essential to empower your employees to have more flexibility to meet these needs, especially in the context of a global pandemic and stay-at-home orders. Beyond asking for availability to adjust schedules for our new shifts, we are also asking employees to be away from their families, which could create challenges for parents with no school or daycare options. To address this, we established an on-site daycare that is free for our employees. Of course, this requires many best practices to ensure responsible social distancing, and the end-result is a great solution for the kids to enjoy safe, outside stimulation while parents are working. 

Prioritize Additional Work Functions

While it would be great to take an all-hands-on-deck approach to addressing PPE needs, businesses always have other responsibilities to their existing customers. Businesses can redistribute their talent in a strategic way to ensure essential priorities are still adequately staffed even though the additional production of PPE is underway. 

Our Brief Relief urine bags and Disposa-John solid waste bags remain in high demand as the military stocks up to create a safe and healthy place for people to use the bathroom as it prepares field hospitals to help with the COVID-19 outbreak. With that in mind, we’ve made every effort to ensure those lines don’t see any reduction in staffing and resources – creating quality products on every line running in the plant.

 

Jim Goode is the president of American Innotek, the parent company of Tru-Form Plastics. 

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