Additive manufacturing is the hottest thing to hit the medical device industry since the first pacemaker was implanted in a patient 60 years ago. The technology has transformed the way that engineers design numerous products. Now, it’s starting to move beyond prototyping into production.
Bringing a medical device to market is a daunting prospect for even the largest manufacturers. There's nurturing a concept from prototype to finished product; determining how and where to manufacture it; conducting trials for safety and efficacy; and getting FDA approval.
Medical device housings can crack, discolor, and become brittle or sticky after repeated exposure to aggressive disinfectants. The choice of plastic can therefore have a significant impact on the service life of a medical device.
For the past decade, carbon-fiber composites have been the darling of the aerospace sector, receiving countless praise and widespread attention. Reinforced polymers have dramatically changed the way that many types of airframes are designed and built.
Every parent or healthcare worker knows that a fever is a sure sign of an infection. Similarly, an elevated temperature in a roller bearing is a sure sign that it’s about to fail. Just as thermometers are vital instruments in homes, clinics and hospitals, infrared thermal imaging systems have become a critical tool for maintenance and quality assurance personnel at assembly plants and other industrial facilities.
As automakers and suppliers search for new ways to reduce vehicle weight, some engineers are experimenting with natural fibers. Bamboo, cotton, hemp, jute, kenaf, rice and other crops can be used to produce high-strength composite structures for automotive applications.
Disposable or reusable? Consumers face that choice many times each day. Should we buy a bottle of water for the gym or fill a thermos at home? Should we eat dinner on paper plates or use the dishes? Which to choose depends on many factors, including convenience, cost and the environment.
Ultrasonic welding can handle most plastics assembly applications. Other friction-based processes, such as vibration welding and spin welding, can usually tackle the rest. However, that necessitates investing in three separate machines at considerable cost.
In manufacturing, the latest innovations in equipment, processes and materials often get tested first by automotive OEMs or Tier 1 suppliers. A good example of this is the Polimotor, an all-plastic engine that inventor Matti Holtzberg has worked on for nearly 40 years.