Frictionless collaboration

The Department of Chemistry at the University of Eastern Finland has a long history of collaboration with Medisize, a medical technology company based in North Karelia. Their joint project has focused on friction phenomena in plastics, among other things. Over the years, Medisize has come to be a significant employer of the university’s chemistry graduates.

“Our collaboration with Medisize grew closer in 2010, and in 2012–2015, we had a joint project, Sliding surfaces. The project was led by Professor Tapani Pakkanen and funded by the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation, Tekes. The project was linked to the university’s research addressing polymer friction, as well as to slide and surface management,” says Professor Mika Suvanto, the Head of the Department of Chemistry.

“We seek to solve our clients’ problems proactively, even before a problem emerges,” says Principal Proposal Developer Tarmo Appelgren from Medisize.

“We manufacture medical devices and related components by using injection moulding and assembly processes.”

Easy access to expertise

According to Appelgren, a device they have developed may be simple, but friction can cause surprises: there can be either too much or too little of it. Friction research is closely linked to everyday life, as friction is everywhere – at its simplest, friction can be found in a retractable ballpoint pen, when clicking open the writing tip.

“Our research focuses on friction between two plastic surfaces in particular. Overall, this is a topic that hasn’t been researched very extensively yet,” says Professor Tuula Pakkanen from the Department of Chemistry.

“We try to find ways to influence friction. This is actually an independent field of science, called tribology.”

“We’ve had challenges in finding reliable ways to measure friction between polymer surfaces, and it all comes down to finding the right methods, forces and variables. Repeatability allows us to see whether we are looking at the right phenomenon,” Suvanto adds.

“The Sliding surfaces project was very successful, resulting in the adoption of a permanent measurement protocol at Medisize,” Appelgren says.

Collaboration between the Department of Chemistry and Medisize is still ongoing, and the fact that the organisations are located only 10 kilometres apart constitutes an advantage.

“Our threshold to engage is low, and we can quickly solve potential issues relating to materials and surfaces,” Suvanto explains.

An important employer

Pakkanen says that over years, Medisize has employed several University of Eastern Finland chemistry graduates, and the company may well be the biggest employer in its field in North Karelia.

“Nowadays, medical requirements in documentation are tough, and although we don’t have product development of our own, we still need experts,” Appelgren says.

“This is a field that will grow in the future, as people’s life expectancy and standard of living are increasing. The health sector is expanding in tandem with that development. Our high-quality products have enormously long life cycles, and Medisize also takes environmental issues into consideration.”

According to Appelgren, it is vital to have a profound understanding of the injection moulding process, as mere luck isn’t enough. That’s why having access to a local research and analysis environment is a good thing for the company.

“For the university, on the other hand, it creates meaning to do research that is linked to industry, and to come up with real-life solutions for practical use. It is a completely new kind of motivation for our researchers to solve real problems stemming from real life,” Suvanto says.

Jani-Pekka Hirvonen works at the North Karelia factory of Medisize. Photo: Medisize Ltd.


Medisize Ltd.

> Medisize Ltd. is rooted in the activities of Perlos. Thanks to corporate acquisitions, Medisize constitutes part of the Phillips-Medisize consortium, currently owned by Molex LLC. 

> The company has two factories in North Karelia and it employs 420 people. The entire Phillips-Medisize consortium comprises 17 production units and more than 5,400 employees. The turnover of the Phillips-Medisize consortium is over 700 US dollars. 

> Phillips-Medisize offers health care sector companies a comprehensive set of product design and manufacturing services, and the company manufactures various drug dispensing devices, health care and laboratory equipment and supplies, medical packings, as well as medical and diagnostics tools. 

> The core of the company’s expertise is built around injection moulding and assembly techniques. 

> www.phillipsmedisize.com