Mati Therapeutics is a Texas-based company specializing in the development of non-invasive drug delivery systems for ocular diseases. The company has been creating its own manufacturing equipment for over a decade, which includes the incorporation of Mecademic’s Meca500 – a six-axis robotic arm – into several of their machines. The Meca500 was chosen due to its small size, high precision, EtherCat communication, integrated gripper, absence of a controller, affordability, and short lead time. After transitioning from a Contract Manufacturing Organization to building their own manufacturing facility, the Meca500 has proven to be the ideal choice for reducing space utilization and costs, leading to an increase in output and overall value for the company.
Traditionally, Mati Therapeutic worked with a Contract Manufacturing Organization (CMO) for its production needs. However, significant pandemic-related delays in manufacturing meant the company could no longer rely on its CMO to meet project deadlines, forcing them to look elsewhere. But as other CMOs were also constrained at this time, Mati Therapeutics decided there was only one way forward, as summarized by Chief Executive Officer Robert Butchofsky
“It became both time effective and also cost-effective for us to build the facility in Bryan [Texas] to manufacture our own products.”
Mati Therapeutic Manufacturing Process
Now in charge of operating their own manufacturing facility, the space and time effectiveness of Mati’s manufacturing equipment was more important than ever. The manufacturing process for their punctal plug, a device placed in the eye’s tear duct for the administration of medication, involves six pieces of equipment with two Meca500 robotic arms integrated into the final stages. The process works as follows:
- The cutter machine separates the extrusion of the company’s active pharmaceutical ingredient into one-millimeter segments and then places them into a cassette, to be transported to the next machine.
- The following station measures the length of each insert and removes any that do not meet specifications, while those that do are each applied with a bead of glue and cured.
- The insertion machine removes acceptable inserts from the cassette and places them in the bore of the punctal plug.
- The next system requires extreme precision and uses a Meca500 to place the ‘inserter tips ’ in front of two cameras placed at 90° for position feedback and inspection since at this stage the inserter tips are not consistently straight or uniformly elevated. By gauging the exact position of the tip and detecting any significant defects like breakage or bending, the cameras ensure quality control. The robot retrieves the ‘inserter tip’ from the tray, inspects its position, assembles it with the punctal plug, and deposits it into the crown.
- Finally, as part of the packaging process, another Meca500 places the inserter tip with the punctal plug onto a preformed tray, and the sealing machine packages the punctal plug in its tray with an aluminum laminate lid for sterilization.
Manufacturing Benefits of the Meca500
According to Mati Therapeutics, the company opted for the Meca500 robotic arm for pick-and-place tasks, inspections, and assembly operations over its competitors for several key reasons, including, in order of priority:
The Meca500 is the smallest and most compact robot of its kind, allowing the robot to be used in applications where space is limited. In manufacturing facilities, space is often at a premium, and having a robot with a small footprint can result in cost savings. A compact robot can be easier to integrate into existing manufacturing processes, which can further save time and money. A larger robot may require modifications to the manufacturing line, whereas a smaller robot can often be integrated without significant changes. Finally, a compact robot can be more versatile and mobile than a larger robot. It can be used in a variety of applications and can be moved from one location to another as needed. This flexibility can be especially useful in manufacturing facilities where processes and equipment may need to be reconfigured periodically to accommodate changing production needs. Overall, its compact size makes it a valuable tool for manufacturers looking for a precise, flexible, and easily integrated robot solution.
Highest precision on the market
Many medical devices and pharmaceutical products require extremely precise manufacturing processes. The Meca500 robot’s sub-micron accuracy is necessary for assembling small medical devices, handling delicate materials, and performing complex procedures. In Mati Therapeutics’ case, the Meca500 was used for position feedback and inspection, critical in ensuring that the product met required specifications and was safe for patients. Additionally, the precision of the Meca500 can help reduce waste and improve efficiency, leading to cost savings. Overall, the Meca500’s precision is a significant benefit for the medical industry, enabling manufacturers to produce high-quality products that meet rigorous standards.
No external controller
The Meca500’s lack of a separate controller offers several benefits, including reduced overall size and complexity, simplified communication and control systems, improved reliability and durability, and increased cost-effectiveness. The robot’s compact size and integrated control system make it easier to integrate into existing manufacturing processes and workspaces. Additionally, the absence of a separate controller reduces the risk of communication errors and cable wear and damage over time, improving the robot’s overall reliability and durability. Finally, the lack of a separate controller can make the Meca500 more affordable, enabling greater accessibility to small and medium-sized businesses, startups, and research organizations with limited budgets.
The Meca500’s EtherCAT communication protocol is advantageous for several reasons, including its real-time communication capabilities, open standard interoperability, and reliability. EtherCAT allows for precise synchronization and coordination of robotic movements, improving production processes and reducing cycle times. Its open standard allows for greater flexibility and interoperability with different automation equipment and control systems, while its reliability and robustness make it well-suited for precision manufacturing in the medical industry and other applications.
By having its own integrated gripper systems, Mati Therapeutics can save time and effort in setting up the manufacturing process, which can lead to increased productivity and cost savings in the long run. Since Mecademic grippers are integrated into the robot’s programming, there is also less chance of errors or malfunctions that could disrupt the manufacturing process.
Short lead time
Lead time refers to the time between placing an order and receiving the product, and in manufacturing, longer lead times can result in production delays, which can be costly. With the Meca500, Mati Therapeutics can reduce the time it takes to set up their manufacturing process and start producing their product, which helps them get to market faster and stay competitive.
Mecademic robots are extremely affordable compared to their competitors and are more cost-effective than traditional robots in certain applications because they require less floor space, have lower energy consumption, and can be integrated more easily into existing production lines. With free firmware updates, no paid software options, and maintenance free operation, the total cost of ownership is very competitive.
Switching from using a CMO to running their own manufacturing facility had immense benefits for Mati Therapeutics and Mecademic’s Meca 500 has proven to be a valued component in the company’s successful transition and production process.
Mati Therapeutics now has more control over production and can easily adjust to changes in demand. In fact, with just one production line, they can churn out over a million products in a single shift, and if demand surges, they can quickly respond by simply adding another shift or production line.
Thanks to this greater flexibility, Mati Therapeutics now boasts an impressive annual output of tens of millions of units.
Increased Company Value
By owning their manufacturing facilities and ramping up production, the company has enhanced its appeal as an acquisition target and partner, thereby increasing its overall value.
What’s next for Mati?
Although Mati Therapeutics was forced to take on in-house manufacturing as a response to pandemic delays, what began as a necessity turned out to be a game-changer for the company. Only a few years later, Mati is expanding its manufacturing suite so that it can soon meet the demands of an international market.
“This is an incredibly exciting time to be with Mati Therapeutics,” says Butchofsky. “The products that are manufactured here in Texas will be going all over the world to treat patients and to prevent vision loss. So our dream of doing that is close to becoming a reality.”
Mati Therapeutics turned adversity into an opportunity to fast-track their goals. Through this, they not only demonstrated that getting into manufacturing and automation is attainable for small companies but also highlighted the immense return on investment that doing so can offer.
About Mati Therapeutics
Mati Therapeutics is an ophthalmic pharmaceutical company based out of Texas innovating drug-delivery systems for ocular disease. The company developed a unique eye-drop delivery platform called the Evolute system which is designed to enhance the delivery and efficacy of drugs in the treatment of eye diseases such as glaucoma and dry eye syndrome.
About the Meca500
The Meca500, designed and manufactured by Canadian robotics company Mecademic, is the smallest and most precise six-axis industrial robot in the world, with a compact size and repeatability of 5 micrometers. It has six degrees of freedom, making it highly flexible and capable of performing complex tasks in various industries, such as medical, lab automation, electronics, and aerospace. The Meca500 is also easy to integrate and program, does not require any specific programming language, and comes with a user-friendly web interface.