Jantz Canada was approached by Medi-Inn looking for an automated solution to assemble swabettes. Swabettes are disposable single use sanitary toothbrushes used in intensive care areas of hospitals. The finished Swabette consisted of a die cut foam brush for the head and a plastic stick handle which needed to be glued into the brush to complete the assembly. Besides automating the process, the client was hoping to increase production numbers and lower labor costs. The existing system consisted of a manual labour assembly line.
There were many operation stages needed to complete the process required by the customer.
- The sticks needed to be oriented and fed into an indexing belt to properly space them apart.
- At the same time foam from a roll was fed through the top of the machine where it would be punched into the required shape ten units at a time.
- From there the foam would index twice before being filled with glue.
- The next index cycle would twist and insert the sticks.
- From there they would advance to a cooling chamber and then be subjected to a glue adhesion test by pulling on the sticks.
- Lastly they would advance to the flavor chamber and then finally discharge into a rotary indexing wheel to ready the finished Swabettes for packaging.
There were many unexpected challenges that needed to be overcome during the build of this machine all of which were related to the required process.
- Feeding of the foam from the roll proved to be a problem as the foam reacted unpredictably from the compression caused by the infeed assembly.
- Repeatability and endurance of punching dies was a concern
- The orientation and delivery of the sticks through the desired overhead hopper proved to be a challenge
- Proper drying times between glue injection and the tug test station created a need for a post insertion cooling chamber
- Glue injection into swab needed to be precise (foam is punched then indexed to glue station then indexed to stick insert station) so any variance in alignment would mean failure.
- Discharge of the swabette through an indexing wheel needed to align to and feed a Doughboy wrapper.
With all challenges being met by our research and development team the finished machine was shipped in October of 2002.
Since then it has produced more than 5 million swabettes