Engel/Hack: Integrated system for test swab production

The demand for test swabs for nasal and throat swab tests continues to grow strongly due to Covid 19. Injection moulding machine manufacturer Engel Austria and Hack Formenbau are jointly providing an integrated system solution and process technology consulting for plastics processors to launch high-volume production of two-component test swabs with a short lead time.

The test swabs have a stable thermoplastic handle and a head made of a TPE to make the examination less uncomfortable for the patient. Hack Formenbau developed this two-component design, initially with three different head design proposals. „We adapt the handle length and shape, the design of the swab head and the materials individually to suit customer requirements,“ says Gunnar Hack, CEO and owner of Hack Formenbau. The development objective is to combine high product quality with high-volume output and great cost-effectiveness. With a 32-cavity mould and a cycle time of 6 to 8 s, processors can achieve an output of up to 320 test swabs per minute and 460,000 test swabs per day with a single production unit. (The TPE supplier for the production of the sample parts was not mentioned.)

Engel and Hack Formenbau jointly developed and optimised the process for high-volume test swab production. (Source: Engel)

High efficiency is ensured by the integrated production process, which Engel specifically adapts to the mould solution developed by Hack. The process is based on a tie-bar-less, hydraulic, two-component victory machine with an integrated viper linear robot for fully automated removal and depositing of the swabs. The victory machine is equipped with iQ weight control for high process consistency. This smart assistance system from Engel’s inject 4.0 program detects fluctuations in the raw material and ambient conditions, and automatically compensates for them shot by shot by adapting the quality-relevant process parameters.

Engel and Hack Formenbau collaborate closely on many projects, with a focus on high-precision applications for medical technology. „We have had excellent collaboration for many years. And our customers benefit from this“, as Christoph Lhota, Vice President, Engel medical emphasises. „Our customers receive a complete system that is precisely tailored to their individual requirements and can get started with series production in the shortest possible time“. Covid-19-relevant orders are processed with the highest priority at both Hack Formenbau and the Engel plants worldwide.

In the future, the mould and system solution will not be used exclusively for coronavirus test swabs. Engel and Hack Formenbau are also jointly developing complete systems for the production of swabs for influenza tests or gynaecological examinations, for example.