Limerick IT in industry 4.0 pact with Cook Medical and VistaMed

21 May 2018

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The fourth industrial revolution has found an innovative home in Limerick.

Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT) has forged a new innovation partnership with medical device companies Cook Medical and VistaMed.

Entitled the Incase project, the partnership will allow the third-level institute to work with the two companies to develop their assembly process in line with the fourth industrial revolution.

‘The medical technologies industry has been a major success story in Ireland, but innovation is crucial to its continued success’

Supported by Enterprise Ireland, the objective of the project is to translate the true ethos of industry 4.0 into a working tool for quality improvement in manufacturing.

“Relationships between research, development, education and industry are key to the continuous industrial and economical development of the mid-west region,” said Dr Liam Brown, vice-president for research, development and innovation at LIT.

“We believe that by supporting local industry though research and development, as well as educating our students to reach their full potential while meeting the requirements of local industry, we are playing an important role as an economic generator at the heart of Ireland’s fastest-growing regional economy.”

More productivity, fewer errors

The aim of the joint project between Limerick IT, Cook Medical and VistaMed is to identify the best way to use combinatory technologies to reduce defective products, while simultaneously increasing capacity to manufacture new medical device products.

“Industry 4.0 is commonly referred to as the fourth industrial revolution, because a number of state-of-the-art technologies that have evolved significantly over the last number of years are radically changing the way global manufacturing is developing,” explained LIT project principal investigator Dr Daragh Naughton.

“Such technologies include: cloud computing, big data and analytics, cyber-physical systems, and internet of things (IoT).

“The medical devices companies involved in this project are prime candidates for the benefits associated with such a manufacturing evolution.”

“The use of multiple cameras, powerful computer vision systems, image projections and augmented-reality concepts will work together to provide immersion and synergy between operator and system, without the need for wearables or any manual input from the operator,” he added.

The partnership was revealed during a visit to LIT’s Hartnett Enterprise Acceleration Centre in Limerick by the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys, TD.

“The medical technologies industry has been a major success story in Ireland, but innovation is crucial to its continued success,” she said.

“I am particularly pleased to see an FDI company and an indigenous company working together with a research institution to the benefit of all. This is exactly the kind of R&D collaboration that the Government is setting out to support through this Enterprise Ireland programme, and I am confident that this partnership project will ensure better outcomes for everyone involved.”

Bleeding edge of innovation

The system being developed between LIT and the companies will incorporate industry 4.0-enabling technologies with a strong focus on flexibility, adaptability and immersion, breaking the confinement of traditional concepts of workstations and screen-based activities.

“We pride ourselves on being at the cutting edge of industry and technology, while ensuring all our products are both patient-centred and safe. Our partnership with LIT will assist in maintaining these high standards, while increasing our productivity,” explained John Neilan, director of new ventures at Cook Medical.

“Our assembly operations are performed exclusively by people, with some auxiliary tools. We believe our work with LIT will deliver operator success by eliminating the opportunity for errors, thereby achieving reliability improvements and cost reduction,” he said.

VistaMed founder and director Paddy Mulholland added: “VistaMed is a leading provider of complex, finished catheters and devices to the minimally invasive medical device industry. We have an unrelenting commitment to supplying defect-free products on time, every time.

“Our work with LIT through the Incase partnership will not only help us copper-fasten our commitment to quality but will give us a competitive edge, as the new cost-effective system will allow for increased production and reliability through manufacturing excellence.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years