Description of the Request:
A manufacturer came to Polymer because of a noisy oxygen concentrator. Here’s how we solved the problem.
While the functionality of electronic medical equipment is of primary importance, it is also important to consider the experience of patients using the equipment. Noisy medical equipment can have a significantly negative impact on the users’ quality of life. The manufacturer, who is located in the United States but manufactures for distribution in Europe, contacted Polymer Technologies for help with reducing the noise of their existing model of compact oxygen concentrators. Polymer worked with the customer to come up with a solution using molded foam to absorb some of the excessive noise that the units generated.
The Problem: Reducing Noise in the Oxygen Concentrator
When they contacted Polymer, the manufacturer had completed the design and build of their first production models of the oxygen concentrator. They had received feedback from early users of the concentrators noting that the units were too loud. Additionally, unlike in the United States, the European Union has stringent requirements on the acceptable noise levels emanating from devices such as oxygen concentrators. This necessitated a specifically designed solution working with the parameters of the already in-production concentrator unit.
Polymer was tasked by the manufacturer with meeting the following four goals on the project:
- Lowering the overall decibel level of the oxygen concentrator
- Taking cost out of production
- A small decrease in weight of materials
- Formulating a solution in a relatively short time frame
Since the manufacturer had already built its first production models, the tools for manufacturing the units were already cut—a redesign of the unit was not an option. This gave Polymer a specific format and set of restrictions within which to find a solution.
Polymer’s Solution: POLYFORM® High Density Non-Skinned Foam
The engineers at Polymer proposed reducing the noise produced by the oxygen concentrator by using a POLYFORM® High Density Non-Skinned foam. The foam Polymer opted to use was specifically selected for noise level and design of the concentrator. A custom molded foam was chosen to simplify assembly of the product and improve the quality of the damping effect. Making use of the two-piece molding kit sent to them by Polymer, the manufacturer was able to remove multiple expensive mounting and airflow brackets from the oxygen concentrator, thus lowering production costs and improving assembly time. The two foam pieces fit into the sides of the oxygen concentrator and are distinctly shaped so that air passes through them efficiently in a snake-like path with a minimal noise level.
The Result: Lower Decibel Level and Faster Assembly
Polymer’s solution successfully met the three goals of the project. The blended foam solution reduced the decibel level of the oxygen concentrator significantly, which will result in a better experience for the end user. The brackets previously used by the manufacturer were of a “medical grade” stainless material that was very expensive, so the two-piece molding foam kit significantly reduced the cost of production and improved assembly times for the manufacturer. Finally, the solution was implemented within the timeframe outlined by the manufacturer, enabling them to address the concerns of the end user as soon as possible.
Because Polymer’s solution utilized custom molded foam, it was able to work within the existing design of the oxygen concentrator. This meant the manufacturer did not have to spend significant resources redesigning the unit and the tools required for its production.
Polymer is continuing to work with the manufacturer on updated iterations of the oxygen concentrator, again using molded foam and looking to include the overmolding of brackets within the unit. By incorporating the expertise Polymer provided early in the process, the manufacture will be able to ensure that noise-reducing considerations are included from the design phase onwards.
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