Nobel Redesigns Dental Tray



When Nobel Biocare (Yorba Linda, CA), a manufacturer of dental implants, approached design and engineering firm Omnica Corp. (Irvine, CA), the company wanted to automate its current packaging processes. "As we explored the nature of their product line," says Rex Bare, president of Omnica, "we realized that they had more than 3000 catalog items, which they manufactured in small batches of about 100 to 300 at a time. This didn't look like an au-tomation project. It looked more like a product-handling problem."

Scott Rheinish, engineering manager for Nobel, explains that the company purchased a start-up company, Sterios, and each of the two companies had its own package designs. "The packages were expensive and labor intensive, and doctors didn't like them," says Rheinish. Nobel was using several different opaque injection-molded packages and a combination glass-and-titanium package. "We wanted to make something simple, less expensive, and more environmentally friendly."

The company explored several different thermoform materials and decided on Eastman's copolyester 6763. "We wanted a clear material that had good adhesion properties to the paper we chose," says Rheinish.

Nobel also wanted to keep the product in unit packages. "Each order requires easy access to individual packages," explains Bare. "Because [the products] were mixed and matched, we wanted to keep the same size package for everything." Previously, each tray was loaded individually. Omnica designed a tray consisting of 16 compartments, into which an implant was dropped, sterilized, labeled, heat-sealed, and cut into individual units.

Another feature the company wanted to preserve was the wraparound label. With them, dentists can easily identify the enclosed product from the top or side. "With the injection-molded packages, the label appeared on the face and then bent around the lid at a 45° angle," explains Bare. "We designed a 16-up simultaneous die-cutting station. One stroke of the press would cut out 16 individual packages, each labeled. At the same time it cut them, it bent one end of the flange over at a 35° angle and cold formed it so it stayed crimped." The label peels off so that the portion on the bent flange stays with the product for recording lot numbers, etc.

Nobel Biocare is extremely pleased with the results. "Doctors can see the product, it's environmentally friendly, and it has substantially reduced the manpower and labor requirements," says Rheinish.

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