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Vario TIP system revolutionizes pipette tip production

Vario TIP system revolutionizes pipette tip production

Articles

In recent years, manufacturers of pipette tips have been able to increase their productivity by a factor of 18 by using the Vario TIP ® system from Waldorf Technik. Backed up by this success with its customers, the market leader in the sector is now greatly expanding the range of products offered by adding some interesting innovations.

The manufacturers of pipette tips have enjoyed the last few years: With the introduction of the Waldorf Technik’s modular Vario TIP ® system for the production of pipette tips, the space required in the clean room is reduced to just 25% of that needed by standard devices whilst keeping the same functionality. Simultaneously, the tool configuration has tripled from 32 to 96 cavities, while the cycle time achievable with the automation systems has been halved.

“Taking all the improvements together, our customers have been able to improve their productivity in the manufacture of pipette tips by an unbelievable 1,800% using this new automation concept. That is more than we had expected at the start of the development work”, admits CEO Wolfgang Czizegg. Many manufacturers are therefore currently renewing their existing production equipment with the Vario TIP ® systems from Waldorf Technik.

However, it had looked rather difficult at the start of the development. One competitor that wanted to enter the medical market simply copied the technology, despite its patent protection, trying to gain the market for itself. For Waldorf Technik, this phase was an important driver in gaining an advantage for customers through sophisticated technology, with or without a patent.

After several years of struggle, the basic patent has now been confirmed by the highest courts and so further reinforced. The result of this competition is now a comfortable, widely patentprotected modular system with some unique functional modules, which allows the basic unit to be expanded by adding features desired by individual customers.
The starting point of all considerations in the production of highquality pipette tips is the sorting of the parts produced, according to specific cavities, per packaging unit. It is obvious that through this sorting, the security of supply (e.g. for hospitals) can be safely ensured, even if subsequently recognized systematic errors do occur. A second reason for separating the cavities lies in the consistent quality management of the individual cavities in the production process; it has been recognized that the quality level is maintained much better in companies with cavity separation than in those where the finished parts are not packed separately.

Through separation, operators can detect at an earlier stage (e.g. through systematic checks or cameras) if something is not in order with a single cavity, and take early action to keep production scrap levels low.

The Vario TIP ® system is characterized by the fact that the manufacturer is totally free to choose the size of the packaging, regardless of the number of cavities in the mould. This is important in order to adjust the automation systems to different packaging sizes (e.g. racks with 96 parts, trays with 120 parts) without a great deal of effort. One important and clear difference to earlier systems is that the finished parts are always in a 100% controlled situation right until they are packaged. Where they were once transported by free fall into tubes and so sometimes suffered damage, they are now accurately guided by servomotor axes and grippers. This way, the quality of the final product is increased and unnecessary scrap is avoided.

The Vario TIP ® system modules now include a variety of functions; the following features are exceptional:

Often, the finished products are only checked by cameras once they are packed into the rack or tray; in the event of failure, the entire packaging unit is then discarded. In the Vario TIP ® system, individual items are checked before packing, and any individual faulty parts are replaced by good parts. Thus, with sporadic errors, the scrap due to defects may be reduced by approximately 90% compared with conventional devices.

The concentricity of the pipette tips is a critical quality feature that is difficult to detect by normal camera inspection. For this test, Waldorf Technik has developed its own method for systematically checking the concentricity of the individual cavities and to remove bad cavities where appropriate.

The manufacturer goes one step further with its new technology to predict the development of the concentricity of the pipette tips for each cavity. A forecast curve is determined by a statistical method, enabling the pipette tip manufacturer to acquire the spare parts for the affected cavity in the tool weeks before the critical concentricity tolerance is exceeded, in order to replace it beforehand without any extra downtime due to tool maintenance. This means that the current practice is avoided whereby the defective cavity is discarded when the error occurs (scrap) or the system is blocked (validation problem) or stopped until the problem is resolved (loss of production).

“Being the market leader is also an obligation to prove this role continuously to our customers through good products, innovation, reliability and proper service”, says Holger Kast, the company’s sales manager, summing up the challenges of being a global leader in pipette tip automation systems. That is why Waldorf Technik is already investing again in the next stages of development in spite of the success it has already achieved. “The next goal is to reduce the footprints that the systems require; who knows even further, maybe we can again halve the size of the basic system?” Holger Kast reflected out loud with a wink. The developments needed to make this a reality are already well under way, and he expects it to be achieved in 2017.

In recent years, manufacturers of pipette tips have been able to increase their productivity by a factor of 18 by using the Vario TIP ® system from Waldorf Technik.

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