Design Optimization and Material Sourcing Help Deliver a Respiratory Filter Adapter

In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, University Hospital Limerick (UHL) in Ireland knew there would likely be a spike in the demand for respiratory technologies. In an effort to get ahead of the potential need, UHL reached out to the Rapid Innovation Unit (RIU), an SFI supported research group through the CONFIRM Smart Manufacturing Center in University of Limerick (UL), for help. This set off a chain of efforts, including turning to Molex for design and sourcing expertise.

The RIU team, together with a network of associated industry partners, identified a respiratory adapter to accommodate viral filters to help protect healthcare staff treating COVID positive and COVID suspect patients over the next 12-18 months. However, in addition to providing proper functionality, it was also important to ensure the adapter could be mass produced in a short amount of time, and this is where Molex proved invaluable.

By implementing a design for manufacture (DFM) process and leveraging our existing knowledge of medical grade materials, Molex was able to suggest design optimizations and ultimately developed the prototype in less than two weeks.

Making Manufacturing Possible with an Eye for Design

Molex took the original design and immediately looked at it from the angle of manufacturability. Our DFM process started by acknowledging the capabilities of molded plastic production. The team at Molex, together with Ultra Precision, a precision tool and mold maker in Ireland, worked with RIU to identify surface elements and radii that could be removed to create a flat surface that would accommodate improved ejection during manufacture.

Bearing in mind the actual physics of the process and the mold itself — which Molex designed as a two-cavity mold to further increase production output — we then looked at wall thickness and break points on the adapter. Consistent wall thickness leads to better injection, consistent cooling, and more reliable performance, while clean breakpoints help eliminate barbs and additional post-production work.

With the design optimized and the mold produced by Ultra Precision, we needed to identify a suitable, medical grade material that would meet performance, manufacturability, and clarity requirements. Past experience working in our medical manufacturing environment helped us quickly identify and test a quality material, and our existing relationship with the vendor helped us mobilize adequate production capacity for these units. This all meant we were able to respond when the need arose.

Looking Ahead

Molex remains dedicated to helping our customers find solutions that work for their needs, even on a tight timeline. With our industry partners, we’re ready to offer our design, materials, and manufacturing expertise in nearly any application.

Learn more about what we’re doing to overcome COVID-19.