Automation trends in Medical Device Manufacturing are in lockstep with the general trends that characterize the automation industry. Today’s advancements in automation systems are evolving at a fast pace all while becoming ever-cheaper to install, as well as maintain. Given that the operation is well understood and tested, these become encouraging factors when deciding on the initial automation investment. The current state of automation is influenced by the most important factors mentioned below.
The increase in robot production has resulted in a decrease in prices. As more and more countries develop their industry, robots will only continue to become more common, as their prices continue to drop.
Although still a specialized profession, automation engineering enjoys nowhere near the exclusivity it did 20 years ago. Today’s widespread availability of specialized software and access to information has made the programming of robots and automation equipment a necessity to continuously consider how and to what extent to implement into your existing production process. Advances in equipment connectivity options allow for easy integration of equipment into an existing production line.
Today’s automation systems come loaded with a variety of features and functionality in offering new solutions for existing manufacturing challenges. All while making for an operation that is easier to monitor and manage. Modern machines can move, as well as track movement, in a very precise manner. This is further augmented by using specialized visual systems & pressure/force sensors that provide precise feedback to the automation equipment (eg. to a robotic arm precision handling attachment), enabling for extremely precise, complex, and reliable medical device assembly. The benefit of precise control is not just an increase in production quality, but also in production speed.
With the advent of industry 4.0 technologies, modern automation equipment can be changed over from one production format to the next very quickly. This enables manufacturers to reduce their minimum required quantity, enabling companies to pursue medical device development.
Utilizing automation in medical device manufacturing does not mean automating every production step right from the start. Depending on the use case, automation is best deployed gradually over multiple production rounds. The first few production rounds are executed with less automation. With each production round, lessons are learned and design modifications are progressively implemented to both the device and production steps. This process serves to better understand the details and variability of every step, that couldn’t have been foreseen during the design stage. This leads to strategic automation of the production steps where it’s most effective and has a proven ROI.