MODERN MACHINING for Medtech: CNC machining is a well-established fabrication method, but ongoing advancements keep it as an attractive option for device makers.

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Author: Mark Crawford
Date: Sept-Oct 2021
From: Medical Product Outsourcing(Vol. 19, Issue 7)
Publisher: Rodman Publishing
Document Type: Article
Length: 2,950 words
Lexile Measure: 1510L

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Computerized numerical control (CNC) machining is an essential process in the manufacture of medical devices. This specialized equipment removes material with incredible precision through various cutting methods, including drilling, turning, and grinding. Enabled by increasingly advanced (and more user-friendly) software, "CNC machine tools can be programmed to navigate to different positions at different rates of speed, along specific paths and patterns," stated Bruce Dworak, president of Hobson & Motzer, a Durham, Conn.-based manufacturer of precision metal components and assemblies for the medical device market and other industries. "CNC machinery can be configured to accommodate a specific product or can be used for a wide variety of applications." (1)

As medical devices continue to get smaller and more complex, with added functionality and tighter tolerances, CNC equipment manufacturers are intent on improving their machines to meet these ever-increasing design and production challenges, which often push the limits of CNC machining technology. Automation and robotic-assisted CNC machines are key technologies that improve efficiency, quality, and tolerance control. The efficiencies of automation help CNC machines stay competitive with additive manufacturing (AM), especially for the manufacture of complex shapes with extremely tight tolerances. CNC machines can produce machine parts as small as 0.01 inches in diameter, with tolerances as tight as 0.0002 inches.

CNC machines in the medical device industry are constantly advancing to the point where machinists also need to be increasingly adept at programming because everything is controlled with computers. "This has completely changed the necessary skill sets of the manufacturing workforce," said Sean Mikus, general manager for the Costa Rica operations for Tegra Medical, a Franklin, Mass.-based full-service contract manufacturer for the medical device industry.

The equipment companies that support medical device manufacturing are also challenged by these workforce restraints, as well as demands for quicker turnarounds and smaller lot sizes.

"Modern CNC machines are designed to meet these challenges by performing more efficiently than ever before," said Dan Walker, director of business development for Tsugami/Rem Sales, a Windsor, Conn.-based exclusive importer of Precision Tsugami CNC machine tools, including lathes and milling machines. "The utilization of tooling technologies, which adapt to changing manufacturing requirements, increases productivity and operational flexibility. Quick-change tooling, oscillation cutting, lights-out machining, and more powerful CNC controls generate more up-time with less human intervention."

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Equipment manufacturers continue to improve their milling and Swiss-turning machines, especially regarding control advances and off-the-shelf automation integration. CNC shops are also investing in automation systems and other technologies to enhance integration and keep the quality and productivity at the highest level.

Parts are becoming increasingly complex, which is changing what the machine manufacturers are offering in their product lines. "To maintain accuracy, you do not want to have multiple operations," said Joe Haupers, director of sales for Swiss Precision Machining, a Wheeling, Ill.-based contract manufacturer of complex, high-precision, multi-faceted machined components for several industries, including medical devices. "The machine manufacturers have recognized this and are offering very complex multi-axis machines that are well-suited for small complex parts."

For example, Tsugami/Rem Sales...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A677878014