Author: Karen Osborne

Polymer Succession Planning … Without the Drama

If you’ve been gripped by the british award-winning series Succession, you’ll be forgiven for picturing every top-level management transition as a dynastic psychodrama. Yet, as technical toolmaker and trade moulder Cybertools can testify, the retention struggle for UK SMEs in the manufacturing space can be eased with some sensible forward planning combined with the support of external industry training.

Succession planning is something that every business needs to face. Whether through retirement or an unexpected shift in personnel, having a plan is strategically crucial. However, it is not an overnight process.

Marking an important phase in the company’s growth and having just secured a 40-percent share in a Chinese-based tooling factory, founder and leader of Cybertools Paul Brown has put in place a robust plan for the Buntingford-based firm’s business continuity. Investing heavily in his workforce, the forward-looking MD is one of the strongest advocates of removing development barriers and nurturing talent internally.  

Rather than reacting and filling positions passively, Cybertools is instead developing its workforce to grow into these future gaps. Part of this process includes incrementally adding responsibilities and booking team members onto the IOM3-accredited Sumitomo (SHI) Demag Academy courses run by Darren Vater-Hutchison.

Mould Setter Leo, accompanied by Quality Control Production Trainee Jiji, are now on an accelerated progression journey at Cybertools, with a vested interest in carrying forward the company’s legacy.

A rising tide lifts all boats

As the third largest employer in the UK, the plastics industry comprises a high proportion of SMEs. Like Cybertools, most of these are lean, family-run businesses, headed up by owners looking to retire in the next decade or sooner.

With the industry’s technical education and skills system still teetering on a precipice, and conscious that time is ticking, Paul took the proactive steps to invest in his teams’ future, earmarking several colleagues for progression and booking them onto three Academy courses. Leo is three quarters of the way through his development program at the Daventry facility, with just the Advanced Injection Moulding course to complete. Jiji is close behind.

The reciprocal, and equitable benefits of investing in development, are multiple, exclaims Paul. “We are creating a work environment where everyone can feel they can give their best and that this will lead to a fulfilling career pathway. By extension, it increases their confidence in our business, which increases loyalty. The more skilled team members become, the more I can delegate and step back from the day-to-day management tasks.”

Returning from their respective Sumitomo (SHI) Demag Academy courses at the end of 2023, both Leo and Jiji expressed heightened confidence in operating the injection moulding machines and a more detailed understanding of advanced setter processes.

Although subtle, the productivity benefits are also evident states Paul. “Confidence results in quicker set up times. This probably gives us 2-3 hours more of production capacity each week. However, the most noteworthy benefit is the swift return on investment. Knowledge equals expertise; expertise equals value; and valued people feel more seen and appreciated.”

Tapping diverse perspectives

The result is a contagious culture. “Positive and driven colleagues motivate others. When my team return from a course sharing everything they have learned with their production peers, it only reaffirms the importance of investing in skills,” adds Paul.

Examining the wider challenges, Paul encourages leaders who are scouting for talent to look for potential rather than pedigree. “Given the scarcity of academic technical training, utilising well-respected development frameworks designed by people who understand the ins and outs of our industry can help our future leaders to define and steer their career pathway. Another sideline benefit is we are empowering future mentors.”

Industry trainer and one of the masterminds behind the winning 2023 Plastic Industry Awards training & development program, Darren Vater-Hutchison concurs. Having delivered courses to over 700 industry colleagues at Sumitomo (SHI) Demag’s IOM3-accredited Academy, Darren expands: “High quality industry training can help to address the lack of curriculum investment and provides a more direct and immediate solution to local and national skills shortages. Machines make parts. However, knowledge creates value. This value increases markedly as knowledge moves up the scale. Most importantly, this accumulative knowledge is being passed onto to future leaders.”

Earning the certificate in Toolsetting Technology (TSett) and Mould Mounting (MMount), Jiji, who joined Cybertools with no significant engineering knowledge, has reached the halfway point in his professional development program. Jiji comments: “The Academy courses have helped me to gain a better understanding of moulding processes and how they relate to QC issues. I am more confident in my ability to get good results from the machines with an understanding of cause and effect in the processes. This is giving me the confidence to progress as a tool setter which will hopefully open up even more career possibilities in the future.”

Testament to the progression opportunities, Leo commenced his career with Cybertools as a temporary picker and packer. Now running the UK mould shop, he recently started to provide input into major project quotations. Leo comments: “The Academy training has given me a more advanced machine understanding and guidance on ways to be more precise with process adjustments.” Leo is eager to continue putting this advanced knowledge into practice, and hopes to shortly complete the Advanced Injection Moulding (AIM) course to further his knowledge and career.

Attesting to the importance of training, Paul says that when the right person comes along who clicks with your business and culture, you just know that making the investment is worth it. “Developing staff is a long game. Jiji proved straight away that he was good with detail, which is perfect for QC work. Having tuned his technical abilities, Leo is now running our mould shop.”

Paul cautions that failure to listen and address workforce needs could result in alienating and losing your future talents and company successors. “People need to have a workspace where they can feel they can thrive and progress. Much of this can be underpinned by clear development goals and a good training program.” The Sumitomo (SHI) Demag Academy offers a mix of structured and bespoke polymer processing and industry-led training and development courses, aimed at all operational levels, from new starters to

Haitian launches Generation 5 Machines to target efficiency in UK plastics

The new Generation 5 range of Haitian moulding machines will be hitting UK shores in the coming weeks. Veronica Edmunds, head of the UK sales team, shares what we can expect from one of the world’s largest manufacturer of moulding machines.
  • According to the PMMDA, the UK has the oldest fleet of machinery in Europe, outside of Romania, and at the current rate will take more than 20 years to upgrade. 
  • Haitian Generation 5 Servo hydraulic machines will offer Electric Screw Motors as standard, enabling a more precise and reliable process with reduced energy consumption, not to mention that they are a lot quieter too.
  • Haitian UK has recently opened a new Technical Centre in Buckinghamshire to support the launch of the new Generation 5 machines.
Premier Moulding Machinery has been the Haitian distributor in the UK for almost 20 years, so obviously we have seen huge changes in technology over that time.  I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of us that this fifth generation from the market-leading manufacturer is so impactful.  Haitian have always positioned themselves as a high-quality brand, for whom the customer’s experience is paramount.  Unlike some suppliers, we are not in a race to deliver the cheapest functioning machine or, conversely, to use customers as revenue streams post-purchase. The “Generation 5” range continues Haitian’s philosophy of sharing the advantages that their economies of scale produce, with our customers.  This time the step change is higher than previously seen, and that is because technological improvements are happening so quickly.  We have over 700 people working in R&D, in a constant quest to innovate and improve. There has been a massive increase in investment by Haitian to improve their manufacturing excellence and infrastructure, including a new site in Serbia to manufacture up to 3000 machines a year for the European market.

What are the main differences that moulding companies will see?
Well, as you know, we have been very vocal about the need for the UK Plastics Sector to invest in modern technology so that it can improve competitiveness and produce a rapid return on investment.  According to the PMMDA, the UK has the oldest fleet of machinery in Europe, outside of Romania, and at the current rate will take more than 20 years to upgrade.  In the meantime, European moulding companies are racing ahead, with governments offering financial assistance to their manufacturers to help reduce their carbon footprint and improve efficiencies.  Generation 5 offers energy savings of between 20% and 40% on our previously already impressive figures.  This is showing circa 80% energy savings vs. fixed or variable pump machines, which still make up the bulk of the UK market. 

So, how has Haitian achieved this?  
Features which were previously available as additional options are now included as standard specifications, including new energy-saving technology, both hardware and software.  It’s fair to say that these options would have cost thousands of Euros previously, but our economies of scale make it more cost-effective to upgrade the whole range. So, for example, Haitian Generation 5 Servo hydraulic machines will now offer Electric Screw Motors as standard, at no extra cost. Thus, enabling a more precise and reliable process with reduced energy consumption, not to mention that they are a lot quieter too.

Savings of these magnitudes offer moulders the opportunity to pay off their brand-new Haitian Generation 5 machine, with the savings they make on energy, in months rather than years.

While energy savings and a quick return on investment are often enough of an incentive to add to our rapidly expanding customer base, we believe the new HT-X tend software will further set us apart from our European and Asian competitors. 

The HT X-tend software is available on all Generation 5 and is included as a standard option in the purchase price.  Charging customers extra for features that are included on their machines is a policy that has backfired on those suppliers who have tried it.  Customers remember when car companies tried to charge to use heated seats that were already fitted in their vehicles, and the same reaction is commonplace in our sector when manufacturers will “switch on features for a price”.  Our system is free of charge and can be turned on and off, by our customers, whenever they require it. This software has been tested on over 1000 machines pre-launch and the improvements achieved when processing recycled material are of particular benefit.

The intelligent control system will optimise the entire moulding process to ensure repeatability, efficiency and lowest energy consumption, this reduces wear and tear on the machine and tooling.  It’s as though your most considerate technician has set each machine.

To support the launch of the new Generation 5 machines, Haitian UK has recently opened a new Technical Centre in Buckinghamshire.  Onsite, we have a selection of machines from our Haitian and Zhafir ranges plus our Hilectro automation, ranging from 90 to 550 tonnes.  All are available for sale and quick delivery if required.

Whilst the centre is certainly an impressive facility from which to showcase our technology,  it is also available to support customers in their machinery selection processes.  We have already run multiple tool trials, energy comparisons and training sessions.  This investment in our UK infrastructure extends to the provision of a full-quality office to enable our customers’ teams to fully investigate their own tools’ performance in our machines. Our engineering team work alongside our customers to ensure that the best possible outcomes can be achieved.  We have also been able to assist customers with some small production runs when needed.

We aim to provide the highest level of customer support alongside the best machinery available at a price which is affordable for all.  In particular, I would also like to give credit to our own engineering team whom our customers continually praise for the excellent levels of service they provide.  Whilst it may be the sales team who sells the first machine to a new customer, it is the engineers who sell the rest.  Time and time again, we hear how important it is to be supported by a team who have the customers’ best interests at the forefront of what we do.  Haitian UK have a policy of not using our engineering support as a revenue stream which enables a strong working relationship with our customer base.

The aim for us, in a commercial sense, is to provide the best machine price-performance ratio, coupled with such a high level of customer service that our customers do not consider using another supplier. It’s proved to be a successful formula so far and we are sure that the introduction of Generation 5 will X-Tend this advantage.

Europlaz Adds To Sustainable Machine Investment

Spurred on by being awarded the Silver Ecovardis Medal in 2023, high-end medical device manufacturer Europlaz continues to drive positive and sustainable production changes. The Essex-based company’s repeat order of three flexible, high-performance and energy-efficient all-electric IntElect2 machines from Sumitomo (SHI) Demag, each featuring different clamp forces, mirrors its Quality In; Quality Out business ethos.

Manufacturing and assembling millions of class I and class II medical device components annually, Europlaz Technical Director Ian Goodacre handed over the order in person at Interplas 2023. Unlike past machine orders, all three machines are for new production cells being introduced by Europlaz to increase capacity and manufacture new product streams.

This latest order, follows another significant rise in medical, diagnostic and life science project wins. The 100T IntElect2 is also equipped with a high temperature demoulding pick and place 3-axis system.

Ian describes the customisation options, compact machine footprint, intuitive processing software, interchangeable barrels, machine reliability, energy savings and service support as the unrivalled factors that align to their company’s sustainability credentials.

Equally important for the ISO 13485-accredited and FDA-registered medical moulder, the Sumitomo (SHI) Demag brand is well-respected and known in medical circles as being a reliable, high performance top-tier machinery supplier. “Many of our customers know the Sumitomo (SHI) Demag name well. Given the sustainability details we have to submit when preparing tenders, the reliability and energy efficiency statistics we can present certainly corroborates the advantages of actively selecting the IntElect series,” attests Ian.

Europlaz continues to move towards a fully electric suite of moulding machines and as a medical moulder there is no margin for processing errors. It means that the team’s focus is concentrated on moulding quality, processing consistency and consciously challenging sustainability.

Ian is also quick to rate the other unique precision moulding features included within their latest all-electric machines. Especially the activeFlowBalance and activeLock features that Europlaz specified to help maximise efficiency and output.

Both of these technology features help to optimise the melt cushion that’s so critical in tight tolerance medical device applications, reports Ian. He explains that activeFlowBalance helps to stabilise and evenly distribute the pressure of the expanding melt within multi-cavity mould tools with no additional pressure, while the activeLock feature digitally controls the closing position on the non-return valve.

Three machines, countless configurations

Europlaz took delivery of two IntElect2 75T machines, one a 110 injection unit with a 22mm assembly and the other a 65 injection unit with a 18mm and additional 14mm assembly, in December 2023. Combined with the IntElect2 100T machine with a 250 injection unit and another two further screw sizes – 40mm and 25mm – which arrived end of January 2024, Europlaz has all of the in-built flexibility to accommodate their expansive and ever-growing medical tooling estate.

Having the option to rapidly switch between five screw sizes (14, 18, 22, 25 and 40mm) ensures that the optimum screw size is selected to suit each application’s shot weight. Additionally, the IntElect2’s large platen design means that the team can fit tools with up to eight cavities that might previously have required a larger tonnage and more energy intensive machine.

UK regional sales manager and part of the Sumitomo (SHI) Demag One Global Medical team Ashlee Gough clarifies: “Both of the IntElect2 75T’s have 420mm x 420mm distance between tie bars and increased mould height. This allows Europlaz to fit mould heights ranging from the minimum up to a maximum 460mm, whilst the innovative toggle platform maintains the all-important fixed 300mm opening stroke.”

The IntElect2 75/420-110 has a shot capacity of up to 35.9g in PP. The IntElect2 75/420-65 has a micro-moulding shot range of less than 1g through to 14.5g in PP. Putting this into production context, Ian confirms that that 75T machines gives Europlaz the clamp flexibility to take on most medical moulding projects.

Adding the 100T configuration extends the tie bar distance to 470mm, enabling Europlaz to accommodate mould tools ranging from 180mm to 550mm in height. “Between these three machines we can essentially mould components of any shot weight, using any tool, from the widest variety of medical-grade polymers,” extols Ian.

Quality In; Quality Out

A special Titanium Nitrate (TiN) coated 25mm screw assembly for the 100T IntElect was also sourced to support the high-quality processing of a cyclic olefin polymer (COP). Ian explains: “As a material that is commonly used in medical applications, COP can be prone to cracking when using traditional barrel assemblies.”

The One Global Medical team in Germany recommended a Titanium Nitrate impregnated barrel. Ian describes the teams’ breadth of processing knowledge and technical astuteness as exceptional. “They really were not fazed at all by this unique request,” notes Ian. A revised quote for the TiN assembly was issued overnight.

Alongside favouring the energy performance of the IntElect2 series, the Europlaz team values the benefit of familiarity. “The Sumitomo (SHI) Demag systems and service support always feels like the complete package. From being able to call upon personalised troubleshooting and guidance, tap into global expertise and having access to the Training Academy, the team and technology genuinely feels like an end-to-end extension of ours,” exclaims Ian.

Machine reliability is the ultimate measure of efficiency. But for Europlaz, and indeed the medical device market, Ian regards quality as the true measure of value.  “Quality leads to greater customer satisfaction, higher operational efficiency and effectiveness, and even increases in productivity, innovation and workforce engagement. This is why we hold these QIQO IntElect2 investments and the Sumitomo (SHI) Demag team in such high esteem.”

Shibaura Machine SCARA robots appear at Fish International 2024

TM Robotics and Shibaura Machine demonstrated high-speed robots for process and packing lines in Germany

Shibaura Machine and its distribution partner TM Robotics, exhibited a trio of high-speed, flexible and cost-effective SCARA robots for food processing and packaging applications at Fish International 2024. Germany’s only trade fair for fish and seafood was held at the Messe Bremen exhibition centre in Bremen, Germany, between February 25 to 27, 2024.

Shibaura Machine and TM Robotics promoted automation and packaging technologies at Fish International 2024. The companies’ robots featured as part of the ‘Robotik Pack-Line’, a fully operational demonstration of an automated packaging line, which appeared in a dedicated showroom on Stand 5B39 in Hall 5.

The Robotik Pack-Line was overseen by Rolf Peters Projektmanagement, a sales project management company located in Bad Zwischenahn, Germany. Rolf Peters Projektmanagement’s specialists represent TM Robotics and Shibaura Machine in the German markets, and were on hand to greet visitors to Stand 5B39.

“This year’s Fish International was a valuable opportunity for visitors to see up close how Germany’s fish and seafood industry can benefit from the quality, innovation and flexibility of industrial robots made in Japan,” said Rolf Peters, robotics specialist, Rolf Peters Project management. “Shibaura Machine offers cost-effective solutions, without compromising on quality or sophistication.” Topics of discussion at Fish International 2024 included Shibaura Machine’s versatile SCARA robots designed for fast-cycle automation, inspection and pick and place applications. They include the THE range, a flexible and cost-effective option for food processors and system integrators featuring the compact and lightweight THE400 and THE600, and the larger and more powerful THE800 and THE1000 models.

Shibaura Machine’s THP 550 SCARA robot featured in the Robotik Pack-Line demonstration, integrated seamlessly with automation technologies from SEALPAC, ECOMA Maschinenbau, PFM Verpackungsmaschinen and other leading manufacturers. The THP 550 offers speed, precision and versatility in high-speed picking applications, and has played a crucial role in streamlining food packaging applications and increasing throughput.

Visitors to Stand 5B39 also saw a hands-on demonstration of Shibaura Machine’s THL 500. The THL Series of lightweight and energy efficient plug-and-play SCARA robots are ideal for price-conscious end-users and systems integrators seeking to automate food processes. Lastly, Shibaura Machine’s TVL700 6-axis robot was also on display. The TVL700 delivers a high speed, accurate and energy saving performance at a low cost, with a reach of 700 mm and a payload of 4 kg.

“Shibaura Machine’s high-speed, easy-to-program SCARA robots are the best and most flexible in the small robot markets for high-speed packing and food processing lines,” added Peters. “The robots’ hygienic design makes them ideal for food processing including clean room applications, and meets the IP65 ingress protection rating.”

In addition, Stand 5B39 featured an interactive education module that demonstrated Shibaura Machine and TM Robotics’ partnership with IQ Bremen, an education centre located in Bremen, Germany. Each year, IQ Bremen helps more than 1,000 students gain qualifications in industrial robotics, including technical bachelor’s and master’s degrees, aided by the use of Shibaura Machine industrial robots.

“There is a strong demand in the fish processing and packaging sector for innovative robots that can adapt to different tasks and operate at high speeds,” said Nigel Smith, CEO at TM Robotics. “Visitors to Fish International 2024 had a chance to see how the flexibility and speed of Shibaura Machine’s SCARA robots can play a vital role in the future of Germany’s fish processing industries.”

Haitian UK Stock Machines Available

Mars 3 - 200t servo hydraulic machine with optional V800 Hilectro robot
Mars 3 – 200t servo hydraulic machine with optional V800 Hilectro robot
Zeres 3 – 90t and 120t electric machines with optional V800 Hilectro robot
Jupiter 550t with optional V1300 ID longitudinal robot

FANUC UK begins search to find Britain’s best young robotics talent

Registrations open on 26th Feb for WorldSkills UK Industrial Robotics competition 2024

As part of its ongoing drive to encourage more young people to begin a career in automation and engineering, FANUC UK is inviting the country’s brightest young minds to take part in the WorldSkills UK Industrial Robotics competition. For the fourth year running, the industrial automation company is partnering with WorldSkills UK to give apprentices and students the chance to learn key robotics programming and operating skills with help from FANUC experts – and even earn the right to represent Squad UK at the international finals in China.

Entry is open at from 26 February-29 March 2024 for teams of two people aged 16+. After completing an initial simulated entry-stage task, successful applicants will undertake training with FANUC ahead of the hands-on qualifier stage, which is being held at the Smart Factory Expo on 5-6 June at the NEC Birmingham. Visitors to the event will also be able to test their skills by taking part in a similar robotics trial alongside the competitors.

The WorldSkills UK Industrial Robotics competition reaches its peak in November when, following further training, the most talented teams will compete to programme and operate a robot in a real-world task at the National Finals during FANUC UK’s Open House event, held at its Coventry HQ. Winners will then be selected for Squad UK to compete in Shanghai in 2026.

“It’s crucial that the next generation is given the opportunity to explore the world of robotics and automation, to help nurture a passion that could lead to a future career path,” says Satty Cole, Business Development Manager for Education, FANUC UK. “Finding talented and enthusiastic students and taking them on the WorldSkills UK journey is immensely important to FANUC as part of our drive to support and train young people looking to consider a career in automation, and to bridge the current manufacturing skills gap. Gaining experience with real-world industrial robots and receiving hands-on training from current FANUC robotics engineers can help to ignite a spark in a young person that could last a lifetime.”

Peter O’Neill was part of the 2023 winning team and is keen to encourage other students to take part in this year’s competition: “You will learn new skills which could open future job opportunities. Participating in WorldSkills and qualifying for the national finals is something that will stand out on a CV.”

Ben Blackledge, Chief Executive, WorldSkills UK adds: “Skills will continue to be a key differentiator for business both at home and abroad and through our programmes we are working to ensure that all apprentices and students across the UK can gain access to high-quality technical education and apprenticeships that lead to real success for them and the UK as a whole.” 

How to apply

Register in teams of two via the WorldSkills website from 26 February 2024. Entries close on 29 March 2024.

Entry criteria

Eligible entrants are 16+ year old students in groups of two. Schools and colleges are encouraged to invite students to register, safe in the knowledge that FANUC will provide training and one on one support to the teams that make it through. There is no limit to the number of teams permitted to enter this competition per organisation.

Entrants must be present for the final stage of the competition at the National Finals in Coventry in November 2024. They must also be within a year of completion of a relevant Level 3 Apprenticeship and/or hold qualifications in an engineering-based subject to a minimum of a Level 3 or equivalent. Additionally, applicants must not have been employed within the industry of the chosen skill for more than three years prior to registration, not including the period of an apprenticeship.

The Passive Stage will require teams to complete a task on FANUC’s ROBOGUIDE system, which they can access using the 30-day free licence. FANUC will then provide everyone who makes it to the final with a free ROBOGUIDE educational license, to support their studies further.

Competition timeline

  • Entries open (26 February 2024)
  • Entries close (29 March 2024)
  • Passive stage (April 2024) – assessment of the team using simulation software
  • National Qualifiers (June 2024)
  • Announcement of finalists (summer 2024)
  • Training and development (autumn 2024)
  • National Finals (November 2024)
  • Squad UK – the winning team will represent their country at the International Finals in Shanghai, China in 2026 and compete against the winning teams from other countries. NOTE: International competitors must be 25 or under.

MedTech moulding trends to watch

Regional Medical Director of the Global Sumitomo (SHI) Demag team Andrew Sargisson shares his industry insight…

MedTech is a multi-billion-dollar manufacturing sector. Unsurprisingly, industry analysts are always keen to pinpoint the newest transformational medical and life science technologies that are expected to shape future treatment pathways.

Regional Medical Director of the Global Sumitomo (SHI) Demag team Andrew Sargisson shares his industry insight and global predictions for the medical market, touching upon how these latest trends are influencing investments in medical injection moulding facilities worldwide.

Thermoplastic and LSR moulding continues to be used extensively to manufacture a huge variety of everyday medical applications. The range is broad and can include implantable components, test tubes, petri dishes, PCR tubes, pipette tips and other labware, as well as medical monitoring devices, drug delivery components and surgical equipment.

In 2023, the global medical injection moulding market size was estimated at USD 22.54 billion[i]. It is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.8% from 2024 to 2030. Much of this growth is being driven by advances in self diagnostics, the home healthcare sector, improved healthcare infrastructures in emerging economies, and an aging population, which WHO predicts will double by 2050.

The medical market, particularly diagnostics, was strongly influenced by the Coronavirus pandemic. As anticipated, there has been a natural levelling-off for pandemic-related consumables.

More recently, there is a stronger leaning in the medical market towards larger strategic and more complex projects, such as drug delivery devices and pen style injectors. This is predominantly due to the global growth in diabetes care, where demand for advanced glucose monitoring and insulin delivery devices is propelling innovation. Testament to demand, credible industry reports forecast that the diabetes device market will surpass USD 68.2 billion by 2032, almost triple its 2022 value.

With regard to machinery, there is a strong move towards “copy & paste” systems and processes in both Europe and North America. The global medical team at Sumitomo (SHI) Demag, led by business development director Anatol Sattel, are also noting more requests for remote system access to historical machine data. This is predominantly to assist with troubleshooting and monitoring validated process settings.

To support these efforts, the company’s R&D team continues to develop an IoT dashboard to facilitate data analysis and visualisation, transfer and storage of know-how, as well as maintenance planning and prediction. Within this assistance system, additional autonomous and interconnected functions are being conceived to provide valuable insight into the machine performance and different production variables.  

The development of process optimisation systems, integrating material and knowledge with simulation tools is probably the most exciting development on the horizon, claims Sargisson. Such systems will enable processors to observe advanced settings and capture deeper processing insights.

The company’s ultimate vision is an intelligent machine that can independently make predictions about part quality, machine wear and failures and deliver optimisations online. Enabling greater process consistency and allowing for real-time machine maintenance to be adjusted accordingly.

To support these advances and in order to meet the explicit quality management and validation ISO 13485 standards for medical devices,  Sumitomo (SHI) Demag introduced new machine user parameters, digital quality control and KPI analytics into its IntElect S medical production package. One of these advanced Med-Spec demo cells is now located in Limerick, Ireland. This will enable customers to perform validations, run tool trials and use the facility to provide valuable process optimisation training to technicians.

Also observed during the pandemic, larger scale adoption of home healthcare and smart diagnostic devices, continues to accelerate at pace.

With significant access to start-up finding, telehealth is the boom-market to watch. It is current exhibiting a CAGR of 19.7% between now and 2030[ii]. Online video and audio consultations with physicians and medical consultants are increasingly being used to deliver quality healthcare while simultaneously reducing heavy work and cost burdens. The telehealth segment is split between services and products. Items such as wearable patient monitoring and telecommunication devices accounts for around one third of the market.

For medical moulders already producing vital monitoring devices, including oxygen, weight, glucose and ECG devices, as well as infusion pumps and cannulas etc. and already meeting the exacting healthcare standards, the transition to homecare device production should be relatively seamless.  

High profile acquisitions of diagnostics companies, IPO listings, strategic partnerships, and the rise of virtual care platforms provide further assurance that the diagnostics market is on the cusp of another huge growth curve. This all indicates that there are clearly exciting opportunities ahead for moulders operating in the high tech medical device and diagnostics product development and production space.    

In 2024, Sumitomo (SHI) Demag will host its inaugural productivity roadshow. With four stopovers planned for July in the UK and Ireland, including Limerick, customers will be invited to explore all the latest trends, productivity and profit-enhancing technologies. Including medical. Watch this space!

[i] Grand View Research, 2023 report,

[ii] Telehealth Market to 2030, Fortune Business Insights

FANUC UK’S hottest automation trends for 2024

Could 2024 be the year that UK manufacturers finally embrace robotics? After trailing behind our international counterparts for years, the UK is now starting to catch up when it comes to the installation of industrial robotics. Across all sectors – from traditional automation users such as automotive and electronics to new adopters including food & beverage and logistics – manufacturing firms are breaking down longstanding barriers to automation, leading the International Federation of Robotics to predict ‘strong growth’ in the number of UK robot installations.

No longer seen as expensive, complicated or inflexible, today’s automated solutions are affordable, agile, easy to operate, and smaller than ever. And with the advent of smart features such as integrated vision systems and real-time energy reduction functionality, they are helping manufacturers to streamline their operations, increase their productivity and plug the labour gap better than ever before.

Here, seven experts from leading robotics manufacturer FANUC UK share their views on the hottest automation trends to look out for in 2024.

Energy-efficient solutions

“One of the major trends in automation is definitely energy efficiency. Aside from its primary function, a key requirement for any automation solution will be its ability to stabilise energy consumption and reduce it as low as possible. Being able to evidence this through live data monitoring and enhanced reporting will also be vital for any manufacturer serious about reaching net zero.”

Joe Mumby, Technical Sales Manager (ROBOSHOT)

Application-specific software

“I believe we’ll start to see an increase in bespoke application-specific software throughout 2024. This will not only make it easier for customers and system integrators when it comes to programming, but will also improve traceability compared to operations that are conducted manually.”

PMMDA ‘New Look’ Website

We’ve had a refresh! We’ve been a bit quiet lately as we’ve been busy updating our website to give it a fresh ‘new look’ enabling us to publish even more of whats happening in our industry!

If you have news or events you’d like us to add to our website just email us on

In the coming weeks we will be updating and adding data to our website, giving our members more access to industry information, buyers guides and technical info… watch this space!