Partnership for economic innovation secures funding for wearable technology research – Today's Medical Developments

Science & Technology

Arizona Commerce Authority awards $1.6M to Arizona WearTech Applied Research Center
The Partnership for Economic Innovation (PEI), a collective of business and community leaders dedicated to accelerating Arizona’s economic opportunities, announced the Arizona Commerce Authority awarded $1.6 million to support eight new applied research projects through its WearTech Applied Research Center. State funding matches private and nonstate funds committed by the industry partners.
The applied research model accelerates product development and commercialization by combining private and public sector. PEI’s WearTech Applied Research Center focuses on de-risking investment in future-of-health and biomedical technology. The center shepherds these innovative products though the idea generation, project formation, validation, and commercialization phases.
“At the WearTech Applied Research Center, we’ve been able to partner with businesses and universities, bringing together remarkable talent who are working on innovative solutions to advance health and human performance,” said Kathleen Lee, director of applied research centers for the Partnership for Economic Innovation. “We thank the Arizona Legislature for setting aside these public funds for applied research and appreciate the Arizona Commerce Authority for awarding these funds to help us advance critical research projects and hope they will continue to make similar investments in the future.”
During the 2021 legislative session, the State Legislature appropriated $5M to distribute to applied research centers and institutes across the state, including $2.5M for wearable technology applied research. The Arizona Commerce Authority then awarded funds to selected applicants.
“The WearTech Applied Research Center’s new projects represent the kinds of new technologies that are helping establish Arizona as a leader in the wearable technology sector,” said Brad Jannenga, founder and executive chairman at Chassi and board member of PEI and the WearTech Applied Research Center. “Technology leaders in our state should be looking to the WearTech Center as a model to accelerate innovation in our state.”
The center has supported the development of wearable technology projects, including a drug-free anxiety treatment device and dynamic fall risk assessment tool. This additional funding will more than double the number of applied research projects through the WearTech Center and achieve 360% growth in total research funding compared to 2019. New research projects will help those with walking disabilities, develop a fetal monitor to detect compromising issues, create a wearable phototherapy device for treatment for thrush, and more.
The eight projects partner with one of Arizona’s three public universities: Arizona State University, University of Arizona, or Northern Arizona University. The projects include:
Discover mineral casting technology.
About the presentation
As manufacturing equipment, electronic devices, and medical instruments require ever-higher precision, the machinery that makes these products must deliver greater speed and accuracy. Meanwhile, the cast iron and steel used in the bases and foundations of such production machinery actively amplify the vibration generated by its operation – serving to limit its speed and accuracy.
To solve this problem, original equipment manufacturer (OEM) machine suppliers are adopting an organic solution – mineral casting technology – for its exceptional vibration damping, chemical resistance, and environmental sustainability. Originally incorporated in the bases and platforms of metal grinding machines, mineral casting is applied in the solar, electronics, packaging, and medical device sectors. The results include impressive technical, economic, and environmental benefits for both machine builders and their customers.
Meet your presenterGeorge Blaha founded his own engineering company in South Germany in 1991. He took over GM positions as lean manager for two companies in Switzerland and Germany. He led multiple companies back to profitability and guided Swiss Start-up from “0” to profitability and 2 shift service companies within 24 months (pharmaceutical and medical technology). He has a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a master’s degree in aerospace developing and design from Czech Technical University in Prague.
About the company
Established in 1923, Schneeberger stands for pioneering innovations in linear motion technology. Linear guideways and profile rail guideways together with measuring systems, racks, slides, positioning systems, mineral casting and ball screws are all part of our extensive manufacturing capability and product range.
Automation of the thermoforming process has been embraced in the medical packaging industry quicker than in other markets.
Originally driven by stringent quality requirements and the need for high levels of repeatability, automation has brought other benefits to medical packaging producers, including facilitating higher and more predictable throughput and addressing the challenges of attracting, training, and retaining a quality manufacturing workforce.
What’s different about medical packaging?
Thermoformed medical packaging is designed to protect items ranging from implantable medical devices to surgical instruments. The selection of materials and the forming and sealing processes ensure the integrity of the sterile barrier system is maintained during shipping and handling until the product is opened.
Packaging must protect products from damage during shipping by securely holding each item in place and separating multiple items packaged together from damaging each other. For sharp objects, such as needles, screws, and drills, the packaging must protect the safety of the people handling the package.
Material selection
Polyethylene terephthalate glycol modified (PETG) and high-impact polystyrene (HIPS) are often selected for medical packaging applications. PETG is created by adding a glycol modifier to PET making it slightly softer for tighter seals and more suitable for withstanding high-temperature sterilization processes. HIPS plastics are impact-resistant and clear and have hygienic qualities.
Strong flange, complex geometries
The entire package must withstand temperature and pressure extremes of the sterilization process. The flange must have the thickness, rigidity, and smooth surface to accept and maintain a hermetic seal to the Tyvek lid, and the sidewalls must have the strength and thickness to prevent cracking and leakage during transport.
The most challenging aspect of medical packaging design is often isolating individual items into separate compartments and locking them in place. When properly designed and manufactured, undercuts allow each part to be snapped into place and held securely.
Elimination of airborne particulates
Most medical packaging applications call for enclosing the thermoforming machinery in a protective enclosure to minimize exposure to airborne particulates that can cause gaps during the hermetic sealing process. It’s imperative to eliminate static that can attract particulates and ensure the cutting process doesn’t generate particulates that can migrate to the product. 
Isolating the system from ambient air and temperatures that cause fluctuations in the heating of materials and in the air pressure of pneumatic components is also important. 
Increasing automation
The special requirements for medical packaging have led to the wide-scale adoption of form/cut/stack thermoforming systems. Simpler, less costly contact heat systems are suitable for a small fraction of medical packaging applications because they lack plug assist capabilities required for complex geometries and higher clamping forces that form/cut/stack systems offer. Contact heat systems are primarily used for simple package designs and low production volumes. 
Form/cut/stack systems are usually enclosed, protecting the process and product from airborne particulates and ambient temperature and humidity. They can be more fully automated and therefore more precisely controlled, especially machines with 100% servo motors and drives. 
Investment in automation offers advantages in medical packaging manufacturing. More precision and control results in higher repeatability, which means higher quality products, fewer defects, and less waste. The process improvements achieve faster cycle times and predictable output, for higher throughput and scalability. 
Precise control and repeatability are critical to the calibration and production consistency required by standards and government regulations for medical packaging, such as ISO 11607:2019 and Title 21 CFR Part 11. Automation may also include vision systems and other inspection technology that provide automatic, continuous real-time quality control. 
Workforce management
Medical packaging manufacturing faces the same workforce challenges as all industries. The operation of earlier generations of thermoforming equipment was often known as more of an art than a science, with operations acquiring a feel for what works after decades of experience. Veterans of the industry are moving on to other roles or retiring, and it’s difficult to transfer these skills to new equipment operators, especially when employee turnover rates are high.
Ease of operation
Automated systems are less labor-intensive because instead of requiring one or more operators per production line, a single operator can cover multiple lines. This requires machines to autonomously perform forming, cutting, and stacking processes with little or no hands-on engagement by the operator. For high volume production, robotics is employed to automatically perform downstream packaging and palletizing functions. 
The procedures for changing tooling between SKUs and replacing roll stock also need to minimize human error and effort. The right tooling needs to be installed in exactly the right way for every production run, and roll stock can weigh up to 1,500 lb. Thermoforming equipment should be designed with procedures and tools for streamlining these processes and preventing errors with ergonomic aids for lifting and correctly positioning heavy objects.
Intuitive HMI
The human-machine interface (HMI) must be designed to be easy-to-learn for new employees while also being efficient during production every day. The latest HMI systems employ large high-resolution displays that support multitouch gestures, taking advantage of skills new employees universally bring with their years of smartphone experience. Like smartphone apps, new interfaces should require little training and no paper documentation. 
Looking forward
The whole concept of a form/cut/stack thermoforming machine is integrating and automating multiple functions in a single system. Medical packaging manufacturers have been at the forefront of the trend toward automation, initially driven by the need for high quality, repeatability, and traceability. Automation also increases scalability and throughput. The third driver of automation is the need to address labor shortages and high turnover by making processes more productive, less labor-intensive, and easier to learn.
Learn why and how you should upgrade your technology in a fast-changing industry.
About the presentation
Andrew Russo, CTO of BACA Systems, explains how the demands of moving to next-generation manufacturing methods coupled with the speed, mobility, and flexibility demands of its business forced the company to make some hard decisions. Russo details how BACA Systems justified the need to replace a relatively new ERP system, saw it as an opportunity to transform its entire business, and implemented a new platform in under six months. You’ll leave this session with a deep understanding of:
• How legacy, dated, and ill-suited technology prevents your manufacturing business from moving forward.
• Why this manufacturing company committed to Salesforce as its business platform to manage everything from sales leads, to order execution, to aftermarket service and support.
• How it built a plan to quickly migrate to Rootstock Cloud ERP during the height of the pandemic.
• Where you need to focus as you consider next-generation manufacturing capabilities.
• Why it’s never too late to overcome past technology decisions to prepare for tomorrow’s growth.
Meet your presenter
Andrew Russo has a degree in business administration from Kettering University and has been in the industrial automation industry for more than seven years. He currently leads the information technology team at BACA Systems. He’s a six times certified Salesforce consultant who has a vast array of experience implementing and configuring Salesforce to meet complex business needs in a simple and user-friendly way
About the companies
BACA Systems develops and manufactures fabrication solutions for the countertop industry. We have more than 400 Robotic SawJet machines installed across North America. When the company faced exploding demand threatened by fragile supply chains and tight labor markets, we quickly realized we needed a modern, connected foundation to support our fast-changing business in a faster-moving world.
Rootstock Software develops and implements cloud enterprise resource planning (ERP) software to help manufacturers and distributors deliver personalized, 360° customer experiences and build operations that scale and out-service their competition. Rootstock Cloud ERP lets organizations take a more customer-centric and project-oriented view of operations across a robust suite of modules, including order management, manufacturing operations, supply chain, and financial management. When combined with the Salesforce Platform, companies gain complete visibility to their entire organization and customer journey.
 
3rd Stone Design uses the machine to cut production time by more than half.
3rd Stone Design’s 4-axis vertical machine center is up and running to accelerate its product development cycles.
“What used to take us a week or more to order from our outside vendors we can now design, machine, and install in two days,” said Sam Lopez, managing director of engineering. “The addition of a Haas vertical machining center has increased our throughput, our capabilities for miniature and precision components in medical devices, and custom fixtures and tooling specific to client projects.”
“Our work spans a wide range from high volume consumable plastic components to low volume capital equipment used in medical procedures. These different applications require custom componentry in original materials that must withstand sterilization and durability testing,” said Robert Miros, CEO and founder of 3rd Stone Design. “The ability to produce parts of the correct materials in prototype quantities in a fast production style allows us to iterate and complete medical device development in fewer cycles.”
The company uses the machining center to make molds for silicone wearable devices, vacuum form tooling for plastic biological trays, and custom machined aluminum heat sinks for thermal management. The variety of solid material parts that can be produced has changed the way the company thinks about prototyping exercises and alpha and beta unit builds.

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