Break the Ice with Acuity’s Simple Solutions

The Acuity team prides itself on working closely with our clients to fully understand their application challenges and offer viable, cost-effective solutions. Each of our team members have areas in which they specialize, and leveraging those specialties to solve a problem is part of our every-day service. This has become increasingly important during the Covid-19 pandemic.

One of our clients is racing to bring Covid-19 vaccine to the world. Given the amount of vaccine that must be manufactured and shipped, they were challenged to develop an internal process to transport critical, frozen materials in sterile plastic bottles in a safe way. They were repeatedly moving a large number of bottles at extremely low temperature (-80c), which meant that we needed to design a way to move multiple bottles at the same time. In addition, the operator would need to wear the appropriate PPE such as heavy gloves to insure that they were not injured by the cold temperature, which made handling difficult. Acuity was asked to weigh-in on potential solutions.

To facilitate a more rapid system of transportation for their expanding need and tightened schedule, the client looked for a company that could design a “carrier” to handle multiple bottles at once , so each bottle didn’t need to be picked up individually (think of the milk-man carrying multiple quarts of milk). They also wanted a mobile cart system that could safely handle multiple carriers at once while maintaining stability and protection of the bottles. The solution was possible, but they simply needed to find the right partner to help.

Although this may sound like an easy problem to fix, at such a low temperature, the bottles become quite fragile and are difficult to move without shattering. Material expansion rates become a major consideration when the product temperature ranges between ambient and -80c. Ease of handling is important to minimize ergonomic issues and repetitive-motion challenges. The critical labeling on each individual bottle had to remain intact and not be damaged as the bottle is inserted in the carrier. The list goes on and on. When handling such a critical, costly product, every aspect of the process must be examined.

Enter Acuity Process Solutions.

We designed hybrid handlers called UHMWPE or ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene. UHMWPE is a dimensionally stable plastic that can withstand extremely low temperatures and offers good lubricity to easy bottle insertion. By coupling that with a stainless-steel frame, Acuity had made something with the rigidity to hold multiple bottles at the same time while lightening the load for our client.

We designed three or four different prototypes for our client to test in order to figure out what worked best for their unique needs. Each prototype had varying tolerances around the holder to allow operators to easily put a bottle into the holder without it either breaking or scraping the label off of the bottle. The labels were critical for the client for traceability. Acuity takes into consideration the importance of packaging for their clients as well as any kind of machinery or parts produced by Acuity.

The shape of the basket also needed to allow for slight temperature changes to make sure that the basket didn’t constrict around the bottle and possibly damage it. Racking systems for the bottle holders to engage in were also needed. Once the jugs had been filled, the operator would rack the holder which was made with special casters to handle low temperatures. That racking system allowed the bottles to be transported between freezers and a transport truck.

We also designed inserts that fit into the totes in the trucks, so the bottles would continue to stay cold. They utilize dry ice panels, which allow the bottles to be taken from a freezer and placed onto a truck. During the drive, the bottles can maintain the appropriate temperature without worry.

Even the simplest of solutions requires the analysis of many factors to ensure the functionality of said solution. Here at Acuity, with over 50 years of combined experience, we work hard to identify, examine, and consider every angle and deliver simple, innovative, and effective solutions for your company’s largest problems. Contact us for more information on our website, or call us at (508) 809-5099.

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