Reducing carbon footprint in Ireland

How will medical device manufacture, perhaps Ireland’s biggest manufacturing industry, become more sustainable? This important topic led a programme of seven strong presentations focused on sustainability and training, hosted by ARBURG Ltd. and partners at the First Polymer Training Skillnet Centre (FPT) in Athlone, Ireland on 7th September 2023.

Ireland event attracts many moulders

In September ARBURG Ltd., together with partners FPT, Gunther UK Ltd, Contura MTC, Plastikcity, Ultrapolymers and APT (Applied Polymer Technologies), organised and hosted an event in Athlone, Ireland, where the focus was sustainability. The seminar and technology demonstration of an ALLROUNDER 370 A 600 170 ALLDRIVE modular electric machine with GESTICA control, was attended by 39 people. The ALLROUNDER machine was run and demonstrations of the GESTICA control and features were given during the day.

Driven largely by the huge medical device industry in Ireland, Irish moulding and polymer technology has taken big strides forward in the last 10 years, as well as automation knowhow, training, creating a more integrated and independent moulding industry.

Expert talks covered topics from reducing energy usage by using hot runner technology, to intelligent conformal cooling technology.

A big barrier to the potential of Irish moulding is skills. Catherine Collins at First Polymer Training Skillset (FPT) explained their training network for the Irish polymer industry, which is co-funded under the government’s Skillnet Ireland initiative. FPT offers training courses and one-to-one bespoke programmes.

Samira Uharek, ARBURG’s Sustainability Manager based in Lossburg, Germany, presented on “Sustainability goals and their impact on the future of the medical manufacturing industry”. While moulding companies are adopting more sustainable practices, the medical industry in particular produces a lot of single-use plastics and Samira focused on ways to reduce its carbon footprint.

Long-time ARBURG Ltd. partner Gunther UK Ltd. presented its energy efficient “BlueFlow” hot runner systems for technical applications. Gunther’s Reiner Heendeniya said, “Since 2010 Gunther has had the most energy-efficient hot runner nozzle on the market by using thin film technology – BlueFlow – that took 10 years to develop. Aligned to the film we use a bi-metallic titanium shaft which is a Gunther patent, that keeps heat in the nozzle, so we do not lose too much in the mould tool.”

Sustainable industry expert Dr Robin Kent, of Tangram Technology, gave a keynote presentation covering a broad range of global sustainability data. He pointed out that while average global temperatures are rising and “net zero” must accelerate, there are many measures that prove the world is more sustainable than we think, such as per capita nutrition and health metrics.

Healthcare sustainability: a tricky circle to square

Thermal management is one of the biggest areas of moulding where energy can be economised. Contura MTC’s Joern Sengelaub gave a talk on faster and more sustainable injection moulding by intelligent conformal cooling, the German company’s specialism. Continuing the medical sector theme, Richard Payne at Warrington, UK-based polymer distributors Ultrapolymers discussed the “Double-edged Sword” of high plastic use and sustainability challenges in healthcare.

To show how sophisticated the Irish polymer industry has become in the last two decades, Noel Gately of Applied Polymer Technologies explained the APT’s Gateway, a portal to point moulders, peripherals and polymer material stockists to a range of support and available funding sources.

“Our technical event open house in Ireland was a great success – we hosted 39 people attending from 25 different companies, so a great turnout overall,” said Sales Director Nicolas Stein. “We wanted to bring the same quality content and vibe to Ireland in this technical event, as we had in Warwick in May, but in Ireland with a strong medical sector theme. We were impressed by the knowledge exchanged at the event.”

He added, “We are grateful to the First Polymer Training for allowing us to host the event there and see some of their advanced machines and facilities. We will be back!”

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