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Microembossing of polymer tubular componets
Quality validation date:2012-06-25
The miniaturization of manufactured complex micro-components, devices and equipment is increasing significantly. Such emerging needs include tubular micro-components (diameter < 1.0mm), as those used in electrophysiological devices, micro-fluidic-devices and heat-management systems. However, shaping of polymer micro-tubes cannot be achieved simply by scaling down a large scale process and equipment to the micro-scale, due to many size-factors relating to the material, process, tool and machines. To address this issue, specific micro-shaping technologies, which are able to convert small tubes and thin sections into the required functional structures, and corresponding machine systems, have been developed for mass production. The hot-embossing process and the machine are one of the developments within the FP7 POLYTUBES project for the shaping of micro-tubes. Other developments include Laser-Drilling/Trimming, Blow Forming and Cross-Rolling of micro-tubes and the manufacturing platform.
The Hot Embossing Process
Comparing to other processes, hot-embossing has less system-complexity, shorter production cycle-time, lower processing temperature, etc. Nevertheless, the hot embossing process is often used for the moulding on the plain surfaces such as polymeric sheets and thin films or foils, to produce, mostly, 2.5D features. Hot-embossing of polymeric micro-tubes is to form 3D features (both outer and inner features), which requires specific tool-design and process control, including considerations on the stiffness of tubular structures.
Tools and accesories
To enable high-quality hot-embossing of polymeric micro-tubes, tools and coatings are designed and constructed to enable: modular insertion of the core dies; precision guiding of the micro-tube inside the dies; heating and cooling units with a temperature control system; heat-insulation for an improved heating-efficiency; precise alignment of the upper and lower die-sets, etc. The tool design also took the requirement for automated handling into account.
Stage of development:Results of demonstration trials available
Stage description:The hot-embossing machine is a miniature desktop prototype which integrates a linear press, forming dies with heating and cooling units, precision guides and machine frames, and an automated micro-tube handling system. To ensure a fully automated operation, a multi-axis micro-tube handling system has been developed as an automatic raw-material feeding and component pick-up device to serve the hot-embossing machine. The machine and process parameters such as press force, travel speed and distance, temperature as well as holding time can be easily changed with a software interface developed within the project. In summary, the already operating system has the following features: integrated force, position and signal control; maximum force 3 KN; smallest force measuring 0.83 N; maximum stroke 100 mm; distance resolution: 0.049 µm; working temperature up to 500°C; 4 axis micro-tube handling unit; and a selection of the interface to PC.
Property rights:Partnership/other contractual agreement(s), Secret know-how
Collaboration sought:Joint venture agreement, Licence agreement, Manufacturing agreement
Collaboration Detail:The University of Strathclyde, in cooperation with Pascoe Ltd. (UK), Sysmelec (CH), BPE-International (DE) and AIN (ES) are interested in industrial partnerships to commercialize/exploit a low-cost micro-hot-embossing unit and corresponding technology for the production of shaped polymeric tubular micro-components. The applications envisaged for the shaped components are in electrophysiological devices, heat transfer management systems, or other micro-fluidic devices. The unit can also be used for the shaping of other materials. The preferred collaborations sought are through license agreement, joint ventures or further collaborative research projects.
The system prototyped has competing advantages over other similar processes and machines due to its low price, small size, easy to be installed, and less impact on the environment. The designs are prepared for both: Standalone machine design and Modular machine design for the integration into a platform. With extended applications to generic micro-component hot-embossing (polymers, glass, thin metal foils, etc.) for product manufacturing and research-purpose applications, the market size could be significant.
Market applications:Manufacturing control systems, Laboratory equipment, Physiological monitoring
Source of support:CEC
|Programme||Project reference||Project title|
|FP7-NMP||229266||A Process chain and equipment for volume production of polymeric microtubular components for medical device applications|
Organization:University of Strathclyde
Address: Design Manufacture and Eng. Management
Region: SCOTLAND DUMFRIES & GALLOWAY, STRATHCLYDE Strathclyde
Subject index:Industrial Manufacture, Materials Technology
Subject descriptors:Tooling, Product development, Polymers, Process engineering
Subject class:Materials, Industrial Manufacturing technologies
Remarks:RESULTS Entry Form
Record control number:51804