“Ultrasonic moulding is rapidly becoming a key enabling technology for the biomedical sector”
In this interview, Optogenerapy partner Joaquin Rodríguez Díaz-Caneja, Project Manager at Ultrasion, explains us what is Ultrasonic Moulding and how this technology can be applied for the manufacturing of complex micro pieces for the biomedical sector that cannot be produced via traditional moulding techniques.
What is Ultrasonic Moulding?
Ultrasonic Moulding (USM) is a relatively new polymer transformation technology characterised by its innovative melting method. Unlike other moulding technologies, were the heat is applied to the polymer, in USM the heat comes from the feedstock itself. The molecules vibrate at high frequency thanks to the application of ultrasounds generating the heat inside-out.
What are the benefits of using this technology compared to conventional micro moulding processes?
Thanks to the high efficiency of the ultrasounds, the heating mechanism is extremely fast. It allows to keep the polymers at high temperatures for very short periods of time, increasing the processability of the polymers while minimising the thermal degradation.
In other words, it makes possible to produce flatter, longer and thinner parts than ever before with very complex materials.
Could you explain briefly how the Ultrasonic Moulding machine works?
Of course. The machine feeds a specified amount of polymer directly into the plasticisation chamber located inside the tool. Then, a plunger pushes the feedstock against the tip of a vibrating sonotrode. The ultrasonic waves travel through the polymer, generating intermolecular friction that heats up the material. Once the feedstock reaches its melting point, it flows to the cavity.
By the time the part is almost filled, the ultrasounds are switched off and the equipment increases the pressure to fill the cavity. Once the part is cooled down, it gets ejected and the cycle starts again.
In which sectors could we apply this technology?
Although we have worked for many different sectors, from automotive to optics, the current trend in the medical market towards the miniaturisation of implantable devices and electronics brings us most of our projects.
In your opinion, what is the potential of Ultrasonic Moulding technology in the biomedical sector?
We have only seen the tip of the iceberg yet. USM is rapidly becoming a key enabling technology for many different products. Designers have been limited by the manufacturing techniques for a very long time and now our mission is to spread the message that the products that could not be manufactured not a long time ago are now possible.
And, specifically, for Optogenerapy project?
The Optogenerapy project is a great example of it. The cell chamber for example, is a very challenging part to manufacture. It combines optical properties, challenging features and delicate components that have to be joint together creating a completely sealed space.
The current alternatives to our technology have too many steps which rise the production cost and complexity. Using USM we expect to improve the results, minimising the resources.
Could we apply this technology to other medical devices?
Yes, the medical sector is one of the key markets for us. So far, we have already worked on stents, drug vessels, suture clips and strings, pulling threads, intraocular lenses, and all sort of medical expendables.
What is your main contribution to the Optogenerapy project?
We provide consultancy services to the partners involved in the implant development, specifically on the areas related to moulding processes. We also generate prototypes and develop the path to move the product from the lab to the market.
About Joaquin Rodríguez Díaz-Caneja
Right after finishing my degree in mechanical engineering by the Polytechnic University of Valencia, I started to work at the Center for Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering of the same entity. There, I became a passionate about the new emerging technologies that enable working at nano and micro scale.
Thanks to the knowledge acquired through my period working in R&D environments, I found a job at Ultrasion designing the same equipment I had been using before. Since then, I have continued working in the industrialization of several disruptive technologies.
Ultrasion is a technology-based spin-off with the aim of designing, manufacturing and commercializing worldwide industrial solutions based on high-power ultrasounds. The company will be involved in the development of the implant manufacturing process and will adapt its unique micro-moulding technology to address in-mould integration of the optoelectronics and membranes to the implant.