How CNC Machines Help Power the Medical Industry

medical manufacturing plant, medical machining

The medical industry is notorious for demanding impeccable cleanliness and accuracy. After all, human lives depend on the reliability of medical equipment.

For that reason, it’s not difficult to guess why or how CNC machines are responsible for powering the whole industry. The highly precise CNC mills are widely used for machining medical devices.

CNC Medical Equipment – from Implants to Dentistry

A wide array of products come straight from the hands of medical machining specialists. CNC machining is responsible for the making of everything from simple tools and mobility equipment components to spinal fusion cages.

When it comes to medical machining, the production itself does not vary much from the usual process. Creating a single part can include using different CNC machines and operations, including cutting, grinding, etc.

For example, making a knee implant requires roughing, tray base roughing, chamfer milling, undercut machining, tray base finishing, and deburring of the parts for a final finish. Reaching a great surface finish is especially critical with internal implants, as any kind of rough edges or surfaces may require a replacement of the implant sooner rather than later.

Thus, medical machine shops have their bar set a little higher than the others on the market.

Contemporary technology like 5-axis machining combined with CNC grinding can ensure short cycle times while maintaining a quality good enough to meet these market needs.

Cannulas

Cannulas are one of the most common objects associated with medical centers. They come in all sizes and even the material varies.

The shape seems really straightforward – just a hollow tube with a sharp-angled end to allow for easy insertion. But the making of cannulas actually needs state-of-the-art CNC mills and electrical discharge machines (EDM). This combination can provide accuracy that guarantees safety when inserting the cannulas.

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Dentistry Equipment

CAD/CAM dentistry (yes, it’s an actual term) uses computer-aided design and manufacturing to provide accurate implants for patients in need.

The most common products coming from the field are dental crowns, lays, veneers, bridges, etc. The production is commonly a mix of subtractive and additive manufacturing – medical CNC machining and 3D printing.

While the dentistry field used to be 100% controlled by the handcraftsmanship, nowadays most places will be able to handle making a 3D image and sending this outside of the dentist’s lab. So engineers can take it over from there with CAD modeling before sending the parts into production.

We all know how sensitive the tip of the tongue can be. Thus, extreme precision is a requirement when making dental veneers or tooth crowns in order to avoid any kind of discomfort. CNC machining can easily handle this with a minimal margin of error.

Bone Plates

Bone plates are the thin metal implants that have a sole purpose – fixing broken bones into position. Using screws, the metal strips connect the two, or more, sides of a broken bone to create a steady environment for the healing process.

Bone plates are usually CNC machined from titanium.

Prosthetic Hip Implants

Hip replacement is quite an ordinary surgery nowadays, as we have come a long way towards being able to provide such complex “spare parts” that can give a great result.

Hip replacement reasons usually lie with worn joints that, in turn, are accelerating the wearing process even further all the while causing pain.

So titanium alloys, aluminum, stainless steel, and non-metal materials are used in the machining process to create a fully-functioning replacement for the joint in order to relieve the pain.

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Medical CNC Machining Materials

As seen in the last paragraph, there is quite a variety of possibilities when it comes to materials for the medical sector. It just depends on the specific application and the selection of grade must be in accordance with it.

Some of the more prominent metals include:

Stainless steel – Both AISI 304 and AISI 316 are common enough. 316/L, with its acidic resistance, proves especially welcome. 304 is probably the most common stainless steel out there because of its suitable properties for machining but treating it for hardening is not possible, setting it some limits.

Instead, 18-8 stainless steel makes the grade when hardening properties are sought.

Titanium – Both titanium grade 2 and 5 are common enough in the industry. Titanium provides an excellent strength-to-weight ratio, which is one of the primary requirements for many uses in the medical world.

Aluminum – Although also used in prosthetics, aluminum has become the number one material ahead of stainless steel and plastics when it comes to hospital tools because of its lightweight and good thermal conductivity. The latter ensures faster drying of parts after disinfecting them, for example.

Entering the Medical Machining Market

Medical devices cost a lot. The sales process of a machine can last for several years. But once the contract is signed, the work will keep coming in.

And if you want to be the one who ensures all the components get manufactured in time, pocketing some money in the process, you will have to take several factors into account.

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Firstly, do you have the capabilities to perform CNC machining on a really small scale? A lot of the components are minuscule and getting them right needs previous expertise.

Secondly, are you able to machine the materials mentioned before? Yes, that includes titanium. Of course, the industry also uses quite a lot of different plastics like Delrin, PP, PTFE, etc. Knowing to handle those will make your proposition even more enticing. Having the ability to rely on one manufacturer to take care of the whole order is always comfortable.

Are you willing to make one-offs? Especially if these parts are really complex.

Can you cover all the requirements set by the FDA?

Lastly, do you have what it takes to perform up to the task when looking to manufacture parts with such complexity? You need the right kind of machinery and good old 3-axis workbenches are nowhere near good enough.

A state-of-the-art machine park that includes 3-axis CNC mills is one side of the prerequisites. The other side is the knowledge of how to handle these machines.

CNC Masters can definitely help you with finding the right machinery.

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