Precision Machining in the Medical Industry
Here’s how precision machine shops are successfully producing complex parts for the medical industry.
One end market we cover frequently in Production Machining is the medical industry. Many medical devices, like bone screws, plates, rods, artificial joints and other devices and tools are small, precise parts that require the machining capabilities of precision machine shops. Many shops are adding these capabilities as the population ages and demand for medical parts grows. But with so many manufacturers competing to serve the medical industry, medtech companies are now consolidating their supply chains. These trends present an opportunity for shops that are willing to adopt the latest technology and go outside their comfort zones to take on new processes. Here are five articles we’ve written over the past several years about producing parts for the medical industry:
As the needs of Troy Innovative's customers expanded, the shop added new machining capabilities, like wire EDM.
The story of Troy Innovative Instruments shows how the medical machining industry got its start, and how it has changed in recent years. The company was spun off of machine shop Troy Manufacturing in the mid-1990s by the founder’s son. Troy Innovative was established to serve the medical device industry, which was just starting to take off.
As medical parts become more complex, metrology and inspection become more critical for shops producing these parts.
Troy Innovative started with one single, automatic Swiss-type machine. As customers’ needs expanded, so did the shop’s equipment, which now includes 14 Swiss-types, five-axis machines, grinding, wire EDM, gundrilling, optical and CMM touch probe inspection and laser marking. As the shop added more capabilities, management started to see opportunities to expand into additional end markets, like defense and aerospace.
To learn more about how Troy Innovative Instruments serves the medical machining industry, read “Keeping Current with the Medical Machining Market.”
Economy Spring began as a supplier of springs for the medical device industry.
Economy Spring started as a spring manufacturer supplying the medical device industry. As medtech companies started reducing their suppliers, Economy Spring added machining capabilities so it could continue serving the market. Even so, when a customer needed a stainless steel tube with a 0.063-inch hole, the shop wasn’t able to produce it in house. It sent the part to another vendor with a laser Swiss machine from Citizen, and once it saw the capabilities of the machine, it purchased one of its own.
The shop began taking on new work for the medical industry, eventually installing a Citizen L220 Type 8 Swiss-type machine with laser cutting capabilities to produce these parts.
The shop has found that laser cutting has a number of advantages over traditional methods, which, combined with the flexibility of the Swiss-type machine tool configuration, enabled Economy Spring to bring the stainless steel tube job in house. It has also taken on similar jobs, and demand for this type of work has increased so much that it purchased a second machine.
Read more about how this shop adopted new technology to succeed in an environment of consolidated suppliers in “Making Parts on a SwissLaser Machine.”
MMD Medical built a separate room with a dedicated HVAC system to keep its dry Swiss machining operations free from contaminants.
MMD Medical’s business is built on select opportunities with key medical device manufacturers. This strategy enables the team to provide maximum value to these clients by working with them to find the best solution and implement it quickly—even if it involves new pieces of equipment, or, in the case of one job, setting up a separate area of the facility to ensure parts aren’t contaminated with cutting fluids.
The company dry machines plastic medical components on this Swiss-type machine.
In addition to setting up a white room with a separate HVAC system, this job required MMD to figure out how to run plastic through a bar feeder and Swiss-type lathe without damaging the parts or using any fluids. It was a challenge, but the shop was able to find the right adjustments to meet the customer’s demands while reducing costs and lead time. This has helped MMD secure additional work from this same customer.
To learn more about MMD Medical’s business and machining strategies, read “Dry Swiss Machining in Medical.”
Bumotec’s FTLs191-RP high precision mill-turn is designed to deliver finished parts from bar and has proven successful for medical parts.
Medical parts can require a number of different machining operations, but also necessitate accuracy and precision. Multitasking and mill-turn machines, which can perform many operations in just a few clampings to produce parts that meet the strict standards of the medical industry, are popular among shops that serve this market.
Bumotec has written a program to produce these femoral heads on its s191 mill-turn machine.
One such part is a femoral head, used in hip replacement surgery. Bar stock must be turned, milled, ground and superfinished to produce these prosthetics. The FTLs191-RP high precision mill-turn from Bumotec (part of the Starrag Group) is designed to deliver finished parts like these. And not only does it have all of the capabilities to produce femoral heads, the company already has a program written for this part.
For more on the Bumotec s191’s machining capabilities and how it’s being used to produce medical parts like femoral heads, read “Precision Machining for the Medical Industry.”
Multitasking machines simplify workholding to collets and chucks and can handle the various work medical shops perform.
The medical industry is a demanding market to serve, as contract manufacturer Lowell Inc. knows—the company produces a number of implantable medical devices. These parts are hard to make for a number of reasons. For one, many of them have multiple components that must fit and work together properly. These parts are also very small, which makes finding workholding difficult and machining the small, complex features required a challenge. In addition, designs for parts vary between customers. The shop needed a machine that could produce small, accurate parts while allowing for customization and adjustability.
Mazak Integrex i-150 multitasking machines have helped Lowell Inc. streamline part production and even reduce some cycle times.
Lowell installed three Integrex i-150 multitasking machines from Mazak, which are grouped in a cell configuration. The machines provide complete part processing capability in a single setup to eliminate manual operations and increase overall throughput. They simplify workholding to collets and chucks and can easily handle the variability of parts for different customers. In addition, the multitasking machines have streamlined the entire process, including programming and setup, and have even reduced cycle times in some instances.
For more on using multitasking machines to produce parts for the medical market, read “The Impact of Multitasking in Today’s Shops.”