Belgian medical devices supplier opts for non-nuclear thickness measurement

05.11.2019 The innovative thickness measuring system of Hammer-IMS (Hasselt, Belgium) is exactly what Orfit Industries in Antwerp needs for its high-temperature thermoplastic extrusion line. Medical specialists worldwide use Orfit’s thermoplastic sheets for orthotic and prosthetic purposes.

The Hammer-IMS installation at Orfit Industries.
© Photo: Hammer-IMS
The Hammer-IMS installation at Orfit Industries.

Bram Moons-Baitel, Orfit plant manager: “The non-nuclear M-Ray technology of Hammer-IMS perfectly deals with any sheet colour, transparency level or thickness value, unlike the laser-based solution used previously. The inline multi-sensor system delivered by Hammer-IMS scans across the entire sheet width for maximum coverage of the thermoplastic material, which is still around 100 degrees Celsius or more. It is important to robustly measure directly on the hot, freshly extruded material without touching it. Hammer-IMS enables Orfit to respond and adjust the process much faster to keep material thickness steady and avoid wasting tons of high-grade thermoplastic material.”

Qualitive orthotic and prosthetic extrusion plates

Innovative technologies are at the heart of Orfit Industries in Wijnegem in the Antwerp region of Belgium. The company develops and produces the most precise and reliable thermoplastic materials for medical devices that improve patient treatments around the world. Recently, Orfit installed a Hammer-IMS thickness measuring solution for its high-temperature thermoplastic extrusion line. Bram Moons-Baitel: “By keeping a closer eye on extrusion thickness, Orfit minimises material waste and maximises the quality of its orthotic and prosthetic product lines. Our orthotic fabrication materials are used for patients in physical rehabilitation and prosthetic socket materials for amputee patients.”

The thermoplastic extrusion process is very sensitive. Changing environmental conditions (temperature variations, air circulation, air humidity, etc.) influence the thickness of the extruded sheets. Previously, Orfit tried a fixed laser-based measuring system. Unfortunately, the use of the laser sensor faced problems when measuring certain material colours and transparency levels. Also the sensor was unable to adequately withstand the heat in the early extrusion process stages. Orfit was committed to extensive manual thickness measurements to keep the extruded material variants within specifications.

From laser to M-Ray based thickness measurement

Bram Moons-Baitel said that he was glad to hear about the emerging M-Ray measuring technology of Hammer-IMS. “After installing our new Hammer-IMS system in our thermoplastic extrusion process, things really changed. First of all, the measuring system can be positioned right after the chilling rolls to measure the hot, freshly extruded sheets. The Hammer-IMS system verifies material thickness variations caused by variations in the extrusion bank which may slightly shift under varying pressures.”

“Thanks to two scanning M-Ray sensors operating with high standoff distance, there is sufficient transversal material coverage without risking overheated sensors. By measuring 9 metres more upstream in the process, we can promptly adjust extrusion parameters locally to maintain correct thickness and avoid significant amounts of material waste.”

Bram Iliaens, Hammer-IMS product and development engineer: “The contactless M-Ray technology – based on electromagnetic millimeter waves – supports fast and accurate measurements. The M-Ray wave travels from the transmitter to the thermoplastic material, penetrates it and continues its path to the receiver. The time delay of the M-Ray wave caused by the material results in the thickness measurement of the material.”