Engineering, Ergonomics, Efficiency, Effectivness, Usability Testing, Product Quality
Researcher/Creator: A. Leung
Users are experiencing blisters/calluses from a material removal process.
Find a way to alleviate or reduce the amount of ergonomic/safety issues that users are going through.
I was the engineer and project manager for this process improvement project.
I pushed for this project because my users have been suffering from pain, and this was something that could help them tremendously.
I ended up creating this project for myself, and this became one of the most impactful project for the company.
I cut process time by 92.3% by researching into a different material, prototyping, testing, verifying, and implementing the new material, which resulted in a cost savings of around $1 million per year.
I eliminated chronic ergonomic/strain issues users are experiencing from the process, and saved the company around $1 million per year.
Disclaimer: Certain content of products, tools, or process are proprietary information, and therefore not shown on this page. Most content and terms in this project are generalized to protect company rights.
Catheters, which are long thin tubes made of medical grade materials, are sometimes made by laminating a plastic layer with braided metal wires along a long length shaft.
Lamination uses heat treatment, which will require a protective layer to prevent melting the plastic layer. This protective layer is commonly known as heat shrink which is made with Fluorinated ethylene propylene (FEP).
This FEP heat shrink is designed to be removed after lamination is complete. The surface of the catheter along the entire shaft should be smooth and even.
This removal process causes people to get blisters or calluses, which is the #1 priority/concern.
Traditional FEP heat shrink is hard to remove as it requires peeling in a spiral pattern rather than a straight peel motion, or else it would constantly break during the removal process.
Takes 5 to 8 minutes to remove a 60-inch shaft.
There were a total of 6 products with different sizes that used the traditional FEP heat shrink.
The main specifications for FEP evaluation are the minimum expanded inside diameter (ID), which is before shrinking, and the maximum recovered ID, which is after shrinking. These dimensions would determine the shrink ratio of the FEP material.
The catheter shaft final outside diameter (OD) must also be considered during product evaluation.
Research was conducted to find better material to improve the heat shrinking removal process/efficiency and to alleviate any ergonomic/safety concerns.
Peelable Heat Shrink was found as an alterative to traditional FEP Heat Shrink. This alternative protective layer is invented by Junkosha, which offers a much easier way to remove the material using straight-peel method without any breakage.
Samples were requested and tested for all 6 products. All lamination parameters remained unchanged for the purpose of keeping constants while testing the samples.
Average removal time reduced from 6.5 minutes to 30 seconds, which would save 92.3% of removal time per shaft.
Issues with some samples not matching the exact same minimum expanded ID and maximum recovered ID of traditional FEP used, which led to poor surface quality.
We worked with our supplier for three months to understand, develop, and test different sizes of peelable heat shrink to ensure highest quality product is achieved. Multiple iterations of samples and testing have been made prior implementation.
A comprehensive lab notebook study for all 6 products were conducted with new peelable samples made by Junkosha. All devices produced using the new samples yielded optimal results for the catheter shafts.
As the preliminary study has stated, this peelable heat shrink material can be peeled straight without breakage, and therefore eliminates both the blisters and calluses. Also, average removal time reduction by 92.3% still applies.
The cost savings associated with this project was estimated to be $1 million per year.
People who are responsible for this heat shrink removal process brought big smiles on their faces because they no longer have to suffer any finger/hand pains and that they can do their jobs easier.
Happiness within the workplace has increased since this new peelable heat shrink material was implemented in their daily process.