Nasal sprays and similar pharmaceutical products in mechanical spray bottles have been an integral part of our daily lives for many years. And it is thanks to companies like Aptar Radolfzell Germany that we can nebulise drugs or cosmetics in a reliable and precise manner.
As market leader, Aptar Radolfzell is regarded as the driving force behind user-oriented spray and dispensing systems for the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries. The plastic components that are required for these products are particularly demanding when it comes to injection moulding.
Founded in 1947 as Ing. Erich Pfeiffer GmbH in Buchloe near Munich, the company first developed ball atomisers on the basis of the Bernoulli principle and, at the start of the 1970s, was involved in the development of the first nasal spray pump on the German market. The company, which today belongs to the North American Aptar Group with 13,000 employees, has several sites in the region around Lake Constance and produces mechanical pump dispensers for the local pharmaceutical and cosmetics industry.
In Eigeltingen, a workforce of around 450 people is engaged in the production of these demanding products, together with a further 240 or so employees in Böhringen. In addition to metal balls and springs, mechanical spray pumps comprise a large number of individual, injection-moulded plastic parts. Membranes are also used, for example, for filtering the air entering dispensing systems that contain active-ingredient solutions without any preservatives. The product portfolio also includes complex child protection systems and pump dispensers that can be used upside down.
Most of the injection-moulded parts produced by Aptar are made of polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP) or polyoxymethylene (POM). Only a few parts are manufactured in a genuine cleanroom environment, since the entire production process, including the full assembly of the nebuliser, is conducted under such clean conditions that it would count as “cleanroom-compatible,” explains Dietmar Zanner, Head of Mold Shop at Aptar.
Demanding spray pumps with high requirements for the moulds
The company’s own mould shop, set up in 1974, is first and foremost responsible for performing maintenance work on the injection moulds and thus provides key support in ensuring trouble-free production. “Right from the start, components by Hasco are involved,” says Zanner. The mould shop also produces spare parts for the injection moulds and performs modifications and dimensional corrections. Added to this, mould units for prototype moulds and also a number of the production moulds are required, which the company manufactures itself.
“We rely on standard components from Hasco for this,” explains Dietmar Zanner. It is also mainly Hasco products that are used for the other production moulds, which are produced by just a few companies in the near vicinity (in Germany and Switzerland). “Even if we don’t specify our suppliers have to use these,” adds Thomas Kuzenski, Team Leader Mold Shop at Aptar. “Just like us, our business partners are also convinced by the quality products and technical support offered by Hasco.”
The Aptar team particularly appreciates the competent and intensive support provided by Jan Rosenberg, a technical sales engineer at Hasco. “Just recently, we were able to benefit from expert advice once again on the use of latch locking devices as an alternative to hydraulic ejectors,” explains Kuzenski. When we design demanding new moulds, Hasco is involved at an early stage. For Thomas Kuzenski, it is also important to repeatedly receive notifications from Hasco of the product innovations that the standard component manufacturer regularly develops for the market.
Jürgen Sepp, Team Leader Mold Shop at Aptar is delighted to be able to place orders electronically via the Hasco Portal with its high-performance tools, such as the Mould Base Assistant, Ejector Configurator and Layout Editor. For each article, the price, availability and delivery time are displayed on the screen straight away,” says Jürgen Sepp.
Clamping plates offer extra flexibility
For around three years now, Aptar has been using the A8001/... clamping fixture from Hasco in a 5-axis machining centre for machining mould plates. The clamping plate permits the especially rapid, reliable and precise set-up of plates – including ones without system holes – for the efficient processing of five sides. “The clamping plate really makes us very flexible,” says Jürgen Sepp, “We can even clamp on a vice should we need one.”
In addition to this, he appreciates the locating elements for the system holes and undersized holes, as well as the very high repeat accuracy when reclamping. The fact that the plate is mounted on a round table enables multi-axial machining to be performed in the optimum manner. Deep holes and threads etc., can be machined more easily. The lack of additional clamping arms reduces the risk of collisions. There is scope for improvement, however.
The company would welcome the clamping plate being available in a round version – which is something Hasco can supply as a custom-made plate. And when it comes to the idea of consecutively numbering the many threaded holes in the clamping plate, Hasco's A8501/… coloured sealing plugs provide a solution.