Custom enclosure and hardware specialists, Bolger Engineering, have been manufacturing high quality assemblies and fabrications as a trusted partner to their OEM customer base for over 40 years. They provide end-to-end solutions, including full contract manufacturing and supply chain services across multiple verticals.
At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, they were contacted by their long-standing medical customer, Medtronic – the global leader for ICU ventilators. They were already manufacturing components for Medtronic’s Puritan Bennett PB 980 and Puritan Bennett PB 840 high performance ventilators at their purpose-built facility in Shannon, Ireland. The ventilators are primarily for critically ill patients requiring intensive care. Due to the spread of COVID-19, demand jumped to unprecedented levels, and Medtronic needed to produce 500 units a week, instead of 100…which meant Bolgers needed to ramp up their production of individual parts.
Sales Manager, Paul Collins, explains they quickly identified ways of adapting to increase manufacturing capacity, including bringing in 35 more people and implementing new shift patterns to move to a 24/5 operating model. He says it also became clear that their RADAN CAD/CAM software from Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence would be a key enabler to manage what he describes as a ‘major leap.’
“The design of the ventilators and individual parts didn’t change – but the challenge was to increase production by more than 500 per cent. We’re expecting to see this same demand continue into early 2021. And if there’s another surge at any time, demand may increase again, so it’s extremely difficult to say when things will return to normal.
“We use RADAN to program both our Trumpf punching machines and Trumpf laser cutter, so with over 18,000 components a week to produce for these ventilators alone, we knew the material utilisation and program optimisation was going to be crucial to meet such a significant demand.
Radan software allows the user to optimise manufacturing nests, it also enables components to be profiled within extremely tight tolerances of +/- 0.2 mm. “That is very important as some components have 14 bends per part and we can very quickly see a high stack of tolerances when everything comes together at the assembly stage. This all must be accurately produced on the machine through laser or punching.” While RADAN is used to calculate the bend allowances, their LVD press brakes are programmed at the machine using the proprietary software.
Bolger Engineering’s ability to adapt quickly to meet the crisis was praised by their local business group, Shannon Chamber. CEO Helen Downes says: “To see the company ramping up its activities to play its part in providing a much-needed medical device so vital to patients’ recovery from COVID-19, is exceptional. Bolgers’ ability to respond so swiftly to this need demonstrates the value of being able to expand production lines. Well done to all the team.”