When one thinks of vials used in the medical industry, the first image that comes to mind is usually small, delicate glass tubes used to hold blood samples and other liquids. However, not all medical vials are so delicate. There are also heavy-duty vials made from impact-resistant plastic or tempered glass that get used for tougher applications.
After all, weaker vials might not survive use in high-speed centrifuges and similarly tough equipment.
When a client approached Marlin Steel asking for a custom wire basket to use with their automated loading system—wherein a robot would seal vials into pouches and drop the pouches about 20” down into a chamber holding the basket—the biggest challenge wasn’t making sure the vials wouldn’t break from the landing. Rather, the biggest challenge was making sure that the basket would not only survive the impacts, but preventing the vial pouches from falling outside the basket.
Ensuring a Close Fitting Design
The system for packaging the vials in the pouches used a multi-chambered setup wherein final processing and packaging would occur in a top chamber, and then the filled pouches would fall down a hole into a bottom chamber with the basket loaded inside. When the basket was filled, the process would be halted for someone to open a door to the second chamber, pull the basket out, and replace it with an empty one.
The second chamber’s inner dimensions were 14” cubed. If there were any gaps between the basket and the walls of the chamber, then vial pouches might be able to fall into the gaps—potentially getting stuck or at least requiring extra work to remove them from the chamber, check for damage, and manually load them into the basket.
Additionally, the basket needed to be easy to handle by hand, as the process involved manually removing the basket and replacing it with another one. Yet, adding protruding handles would force the creation of a gap—increasing the risk of vials falling outside the basket.
To solve this problem, the wire basket was customized to add recessed handles. This would allow the basket to sit almost flush with the walls of the chamber so the client’s vials wouldn’t fall into a gap.
Meeting Strict Tolerances
Because the design of the basket was intended to be as close to perfectly flush with the walls of the chamber as possible, each and every last custom wire basket that Marlin would make needed to be precisely manufactured. A variance of just 1/10 of an inch could keep the basket from fitting, rendering it unusable.
So, Marlin leveraged its investments in factory automation and employee learning to minimize the risk of parts fluctuations from one wire basket assembly to the next.
Automated manufacturing equipment, such as Marlin’s wire bending robots, CNC press brakes, and MFDC welding equipment, could shape and join wires for the basket with incredible consistency—far better than any manual assembly method could. An additional benefit of using factory automation was the speed at which assembly could be completed. Once set, a robotic assembly machine could run for hours on end without needing to stop and rest or risking a repetitive motion stress injury.
Marlin’s engineering team members were able to leverage their knowledge of the manufacturing equipment to minimize the risk of deviations by choosing the right kind of welds to make and where to make them to keep the basket from becoming deformed while maintaining rigidity.
In the end, Marlin Steel was able to quickly deliver a top-quality custom wire basket for handling the client’s medical vials through the final stage of preparation for shipment.
Need a custom wire basket for a medical application? Learn more about what would make the best basket for your needs by checking out our guide on choosing the right basket at the link below, or contact us for a custom basket quote today!