Medical device OEMs often look to their supply partners for those important metal parts, but the ideal fabrication process is not always apparent. Primary options for metal components for medtech firms include stamping and machining. Finding a fabrication partner who can offer the high level of quality required for medical devices can be a challenge, but finding one who is proficient in multiple methods can be near impossible. Fortunately, one supplier stands out among the crowd as an expert in metal component fabrication, leveraging both stamping and machining capabilities.
“Hobson & Motzer has long held a strong position in the medical device market providing precision metal components for endo-mechanical devices. Over the last 45 years or so, we have developed a unique expertise in components for surgical stapling devices and other end effectors. Interestingly, the evolution of manufacturing technology at Hobson & Motzer runs parallel to that of modern surgical stapling instruments,” explained Anthony Bracale, strategic business development manager at Hobson & Motzer.
Hobson & Motzer has facilities in Durham and Wallingford, Conn., totaling 125,000 square feet. The firm offers services including R&D, material specification, design and engineering, rapid prototyping, automation, tooling, precision electro-chemical machining, and precision assembly, in addition to the aforementioned stamping and CNC machining.
“Machining services evolved as a secondary or value-add service in the early 2000s to meet our customers’ needs for greater precision in stapling instruments. Initially, the machining we performed was exclusively to a part stamped and/or coined in our press room, said Bracale. “Today, however, the depth of our CNC capability is equal to that of our press room operations with more than 80 high-precision, high-speed, CNC machines with three-, four-, and full five-axis capability. We produce very complex, ultra-high precision, fully machined parts. The products we support are still primarily medical device—in stapling—but increasingly for robotic surgery platforms as well.”
Bracale took time to speak with Medical Product Outsourcing (MPO) about the company and how they’ve grown into a preferred metal component supply partner. The firm’s robust offerings make it unique when compared to other services providers.
Sean Fenske: What are the advantages of machining versus the advantages of stamping?
Anthony Bracale: Each technology has its advantages. It really depends on the specific part and its function. Part geometry, tolerances, features, and volume are key factors, but there are many other factors to consider. Having a high level of expertise in stamping and machining has given our company great flexibility in bringing the best approach to an application. As medical devices continue to get more sophisticated, particularly in the growing robotic surgery market, the component trend is toward smaller, tighter tolerances, and stronger materials. The vast majority of components we see lend themselves to the high-speed, high-precision CNC equipment we have, and continue to invest in—machines that bring reliable precision and speed.
Our Advanced Manufacturing Center that opened in 2017 is ground zero for Hobson & Motzer technology. Here you will find high-level CNC equipment partnered with sophisticated manufacturing automation. It is also where we house our PECM technology—precision electro chemical machining. This technology serves very unique machining applications and really rounds out our offerings in the market.
Fenske: You recently introduced a new service called First Step. Can you explain what that is?
Bracale: First Step is a new program we kicked off last year in November. In our view, it’s a radical new approach to the NPD and NPI process (new product development/new product introduction) for medical device manufacturing. We have over a century of experience making precision metal components, so from a development standpoint, harnessing that knowhow in a way that our customer can engage with and truly benefit from is powerful. We have a “make it” perspective versus a “design it” perspective. When these great minds meet, it always delivers a better outcome.
Another dimension of First Step is the team we have assembled; this group represents our best engineers, application engineers, CNC programmers, technicians, and operators. They fully understand the long view we are taking with First Step; the projects we have in this program have a horizon three to five years out. Think about the value of a development project’s continuity to both sides; it fosters a deeper understanding and perspective. This approach allows us to own the learning curve through the development process, which pays dividends to both the customer and Hobson & Motzer. After that, scaling to full production doesn’t just start after the development work is complete, it’s simply a continuation of the established process.
The final piece of the First Step puzzle is prototyping. We have versatile resources and cutting-edge metrology (if needed) in place that provides high-precision prototypes. This represents a vital difference when customers need more than just a rendering.
We are very excited about our recent launch of this program, which was the natural progression of the way we have supported NPD all these years. Fortunately, the response so far has been very positive. We have some fascinating projects in the pipeline.
Fenske: Why is it important for companies to communicate with their parts supplier early in the development process?
Bracale: It’s important to engage early to gain understanding and include the manufacturer’s perspective. It allows us to assess the lifecycle of the product from the very beginning. Solid design for manufacturability (DFM) prevents projects from going too far down the wrong path, resulting in delays and additional costs.
We spent a significant amount of time developing First Step, and in doing so, worked with leading OEMs in the industry to really define and understand what they are seeking. A collaborative First Step engagement relies on a much broader team approach, providing customers at-the-ready resources they might not normally have. This is how First Step covers the NPD/NPI process, completely and from every possible angle. DFM has evolved over the years and a lot of companies do it, but Hobson & Motzer has really raised the bar with First Step. Looking back on all the projects in which we have been involved, it really does come down to making a really solid first step—the inspiration for the whole program. It’s a culmination of the natural progression by which we have operated since our company’s inception.
Fenske: There are many service providers who offer metal components for medical device manufacturers. What makes Hobson & Motzer unique?
Bracale: There are very few shops out there like Hobson & Motzer. In 2021, we will enter our 108th year in business. We have a long history and a very good reputation in the market as a trustworthy company, and a company that delivers on the most challenging projects. This is not an assumption. Every couple of years, we perform a Customer Satisfaction Survey, and it is humbling to go through comments of customers who, year after year, use these words to describe their interaction with our team. The voice of the customer sets our bar and is what inspires us to work harder to earn and maintain that trust year after year. There are many excellent competitors out there—we know most of them—but there truly is only one Hobson & Motzer.
Structurally, Hobson & Motzer also has a level of vertical integration that we feel sets us apart. It allows us to maintain accountability by controlling the process and quality, which helps keep our lead times in check. Our approach to vertical integration is unique. We generally move into a new process or advanced technology early—learn it, perfect it, and then elevate it.
The final and most important piece of the puzzle is people. The skill level in our shop is exceptional. Everyone boasts having the best people; it is part of the secret sauce we all hope to have. At Hobson & Motzer, we put substantial effort into creating a strong culture and an environment in which people want to work. Our shop is clean and safe, and within our walls, there is opportunity. We develop skills, as well as offer apprenticeship and internship programs that foster those skills we need. We pay close attention to employee engagement and encourage involvement at all levels of the company. This has afforded us the opportunity to hire some of the best talent in the area. Numerous times, top talent has reached out to us. Overall, this creates an engaged workforce; individuals who realize their contributions are valued and how much the parts we produce matter to the people—ultimately, the doctors and patients—who depend on the precision with which we make them.
We’re looking forward to beginning the First Step conversation with people who are looking for a precision prototype program for their next project.