A catheter is a medical device presenting itself as a thin tube used for delivering small quantities of medicine or draining the bladder for instance. Its production implies a thin stainless steel wire that is covered by a medical grade plastic. In the end, the steel wire is extracted leaving behind a small empty tube, the catheter. In 1997 a medical equipment manufacturer contacted us with this showstopper issue of extracting the stainless steel wire for producing the above-mentioned catheters. All their automatic extraction devices attempts failed for months in a row and the escape solution was to hire a person able to extract by his bare hands the steel wire. So for almost three years in a row, this Chinese person was the only employee of the company capable of producing about 1000 meters of catheters per week.
He developed a special skill involving rapid friction of the hands over the plastic tube and by its dilatation extremely fast and careful not to break the wire inside the tube, was able to extract it. One person working about 12 hours a day and producing about 1 kilometer of tube per week! Obviously, the market demand was way higher than the production capacity this leading to serious frustration at the management levels of the company, with its headquarters in Australia and supplying most of its production to Europe and the United States.
Studying the dilatation factor of the plastic tubes, the breaking point of the steel wire, it took us 3 months to create and launch into production the equipment visible in the picture. Some efficiency figures: 5 parallel simultaneous working stations, full automatic tube feeding, 300 meters/hour/working station, 24/7 up time. From what we know the machine is still in production as of 2018 and the Chinese employee has been laid off with a significant bonus and compensation for his hard work and devotion to producing these catheter tubes during his 3 years of activity.