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Shot in the arm for injection moulding

22 July 2021

To keep pace with ongoing expansion and increasingly large orders in the burgeoning Irish medical and pharmaceutical sectors, mould-maker and moulder, Avenue, invested in three FANUC ROBOSHOT electric injection moulding machines

Based in Sligo, Ireland, Avenue has been operating in the medical moulding market for over 30 years. Built off the back of a wave of US-based companies looking to get a foothold in the European markets, Avenue quickly established itself as a leader in the sector, supplying tooling and plastic components to medical market leaders around the globe.

Having been acquired by GW Plastics in 2017, Avenue’s position in the global medical moulding market has been further enhanced following GW Plastic’s recent merger with the Nolato Group – a leading Swedish-based polymer solutions provider in Europe, Asia and North America. Nolato specialises in developing and manufacturing products in polymer materials such as plastic, silicone, and TPE for leading companies within the healthcare industry.

Gerard Henn, General Manager at Avenue – A Nolato Company, comments: “While Avenue continues to retain its commercial independence in Ireland, its partnership with Nolato has ensured its global capabilities have been dramatically enhanced. It’s the continuation of years of strong performance, and we’re looking forward to what promises to be an exciting next chapter.”

Accuracy is key

Tasked with both mould making and moulding for high-profile medical and pharmaceutical clients, Avenue is required to provide significant assurances in terms of the accuracy of its output. It predominantly supplies medical devices within two categories: delivery devices, such as auto-injectors; and airway management products, such as cannulas or those used in tracheotomy procedures.

Given the nature of these devices, and the safety-critical aspect of their application, precision is absolutely crucial. To help with this, Avenue’s facility is home to two Class 8 clean rooms with a combined footprint of 400m2, alongside an environmentally controlled area for moulding. 

Such facilities are important for a company operating in the medical sector, as Gerard explains: “We are living in an increasingly connected world, and the demands of our customers reflect that. For example, we will often find that we are tasked with making half a dozen identical moulds, that are shipped off around the world for simultaneous product launches. 

“This means that we have to be able to work fast, necessitating a high level of productivity, but we must also be extremely accurate, to ensure everything we produce is to an exact specification. We knew that the best way to achieve this combination of speed and accuracy was to invest in the latest electric injection moulding technology.”

Identifying the solution

Avenue worked closely with JL Goor – machinery suppliers to the Irish polymer market – to identify which machines represented the best investment for the anticipated growth.

Michael Reynolds, Sales Manager at JL Goor, comments: “We’ve worked with Avenue for a number of years, growing alongside them as the Irish polymer market starts to make its mark on the global scene. When we were tasked with identifying an electric injection moulding machine that could meet the high-pressure demands of the medical market, we had no hesitation in recommending FANUC’s ROBOSHOT.”

Avenue invested in three FANUC ROBOSHOT electric injection moulding machines (in addition to the one already installed at the facility), ranging from the 50T model through to the largest 300T model. These were delivered bespoke to their exact requirements having passed through JL Goor’s brand new customisation centre. 

Michael Gilmartin, Process Engineering Manager at Avenue – A Nolato Company, comments: “Opting for an all-electric injection machine was vital from a cleanroom point of view, and the ROBOSHOT is very impressive in terms of its footprint to performance ratio. Given FANUC’s extensive portfolio, it’s also ideal for adding on automation and robots – for example, on the ROBOSHOT 150iA we use a FANUC LR Mate 200D 7L, which provides seamless integration of electric press and automation. 

“But the biggest advantage of opting for FANUC was the global recognition and trust it has as a brand in general, but also specifically with its proven track record in electric press manufacture. We’ve got customers from all corners of the world, many of whom use FANUC machines and robots themselves. The medical moulding market is built on accuracy and reliability, and you need that confidence in the product. If we’ve tested moulds at our own facility on the ROBOSHOT, then we know it will work at our customers’ sites too.”

Looking to the future

With the medical moulding market in Ireland continuing to flourish, attention turns to how Avenue can take advantage of increasing demand. 

Gerard concludes: “When you are looking at investing in new machinery, you have to ask yourself a number of different questions. Above all else, will these new machines positively impact your business, and how easy will it be to implement them into existing production processes? 

“FANUC is an internationally recognised name, and our customers across the globe are confident in the precision and reliability of the ROBOSHOT machines. The local support offered by both FANUC and JL Goor also means we can be assured of a painless installation process and ongoing support should any issues arise, which means we’ll undoubtedly be making further investment as we continue to grow.”