Improved Radio Frequency (RF) Welding Process Reduced Cycle Times and Increased Throughput for Medical Air Bladder Production

An Engineered Solution to Improve Yield and Throughput and Increase Capacity Constraints


In the ever-evolving landscape of medical device manufacturing, the pursuit of innovative and efficient production methods has become paramount. One such innovation that has been gaining traction in recent years is the utilization of Radio Frequency (RF) welding technology in the fabrication of medical inflatable air bladders. These critical components are integral to various medical devices, such as pressure-relief mattresses, compression garments, and inflatable cuffs used in healthcare applications. RF welding presents a compelling alternative to traditional bonding techniques due to its precision, speed, and ability to maintain material integrity.

However, if the RF welding process is not set up correctly for the specific materials being welded, a range of critical issues can arise. These complications may include inadequate seal integrity, compromised product durability, incomplete or excessive cycle times, or incorrect pressure settings. Moreover, improper RF welding setup can lead to increased reject rates, elevated production costs, and a heightened risk of non-compliance with stringent industry regulations.

The Challenge

The challenge from our client was twofold: to enhance production efficiency and boost capacity for manufacturing air bladders without compromising on safety, energy conservation, or product quality. The existing RF welding system was struggling to meet the growing demand, which threatened to necessitate a substantial capital investment in new equipment. The air bladders, designed with overall dimensions of 12″ x 24″, were crafted from a combination of PVC and polyurethane film. Stringent quality standards were imposed, requiring bladders to undergo rigorous testing for burst strength, seal strength, and thickness. Compliance with ISO and FDA regulations was mandatory, adding an extra layer of complexity to the task.

Innovative Approach

Addressing the challenge demanded a multidisciplinary approach, involving collaboration across various engineering and technical experts within Shawmut. The project brought together plant managers, plant engineers, electricians, and quality managers to brainstorm, develop, and implement an innovative solution.

The key to success was in designing and implementing changes to optimize the RF welder’s power efficiency for the air bladder production. By meticulously fine-tuning this critical component, the team was able to significantly reduce the weld time per unit while simultaneously increasing overall output. It also eliminated the need for additional capital investment in new equipment, thereby saving valuable resources.

Results and Impact

Shawmut’s improvements to the RF welding process delivered a 20% reduction in cycle times, boosting manufacturing speed without sacrificing product quality, durability, or employee safety. This efficiency and improved product consistency enabled the client to re-shore their entire air bladder product line back to North America.

The client strengthened their supply chain by implementing Just-In-Time (JIT) production methods through re-shoring, allowing them to increase production to over 1 million units annually (even while reducing inventory holding costs) and maintaining a consistent high-quality air bladder supply.


Shawmut Corporation, known for its analytical and support resources, has continually strived to advance radio frequency (RF) welding equipment for various applications within the medical industry. With the enhancements to the RF welding process, Shawmut achieved a remarkable 20% reduction in cycle times, significantly increasing manufacturing efficiency without compromising product quality or safety. This had a profound impact on the client, enabling them to re-shore their product line back to North America.

By adopting JIT production methods, the client further improved their supply chain capabilities, now manufacturing over 1 million units annually and ensuring a steady air bladder supply while minimizing inventory costs.

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Project Details


Radio Frequency (RF) Welded Air Bladders

Industry for Use:


Capabilities Applied/Processes:

Shawmut’s extensive engineering and technical resources were used to design and implement changes to increase RF welding efficiency without sacrificing safety, energy conservation, and product quality. A modification of the RF welder’s power efficiency reduced the weld time per unit, increased overall output, and prevented additional spending while achieving the same results.

Materials Used:

  • Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
  • Polyurethane Film
  • PVC Tubes
  • Polyurethane Tubes
  • PU Coated Fabrics

Equipment Used:

Radio Frequency (RF) Welder

In Process Testing/Inspection Performed:

  • Burst strength
  • Seal strength
  • Consistent thickness

Width of Part:

12 inches

Length of Part:

24 inches


1 million units

Delivery/Turnaround Time:

Just-in-time (JIT)

Delivery Location:


Standards Met:

  • Customer requirements
  • ISO (International Organization for Standardization)
  • FDA (Food & Drug Administration)

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