project scope Automated Medical Device Assembly Machine

SDC designed and built an automated robotic machine that produces assemblies containing extruded medical tubing. Key components of the assembly machine include tube feeding and preparation, error proofing, and robotic tube handling.


In designing the medical device assembly machine, SDC’s extensive processing, material handling, and automation experience was combined with the customer’s manufacturing knowledge to successfully create an automated cell. The resulting machine used three 6-axis robots to automatically create a medical device that consisted of tubing, a tube clamp, and two medical ports that were glued to each end of the tubing.

Before assembly can begin, the medical tubing is fed into the machine and prepared for the robotic operations that follow. This includes feeding the tube into the system, cutting the tube for the correct length, and installing a clamp on the tube. The tube is fed into the SDC machine from a coil and onto a custom dereeler by an operator. From there, the tube is dispensed through a weighted tension device that separates the tubing from the spool and measures and tracks both the amount of tubing that is dispensed and the tension at which it is dispensed. A pair of servo-driven belts then grabs the tube and gently guides it into the machine, which minimizes the external effects on the fed tube length. A closed loop control system and machine learning automatically adjusts the servo in-feed system to ensure the tube length fed is consistent.

Once the tubing is fed into the machine, it is held in a custom trough until one robot grabs one end of the tube, while a second robot simultaneously grabs the other end. Together, the two robots move through a programmed sequence to complete the assembly process of dipping the tubing into glue and then accurately inserting it into the ports on each end. For longer tubing lengths, SDC designed a custom holder to keep the long loop of tubing controlled and out of the way for the robots to move through the sequence.

To prevent assembling an incorrect part, tooling was used to handle each part, while sensors ensured that the correct tooling was installed. The software, recovery, and setup cycles were programmed by SDC so that the robots automatically cleared the machine of any part that failed mid-cycle.

Once assembled, a third robot gathers the completed assembly and deposits the automated cell into a collection system.

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