The stent and tube cutting technology coming on the market today is miles ahead of what we’ve been working with for years – and that’s music to the ears of many, especially in the medical device industry. Stent and hypo tube cutting has been around for some time, but as demand continues to grow for these types of devices, cut quality and production rates are more important than ever to meet the demand and make the necessary return on investment.
Microsecond fiber and pulsed Nd:YAG lasers have been used successfully for hypo tube and stent cutting for many years. The only downside is that cut parts often require a number of post processing operations, depending on material and part requirements. These additional manufacturing steps can add significant cost; they also add to the handling logistics burden for what, in many cases, are mechanically delicate parts, not to mention the added problem of having to deal with chemical-based processes and the disposal of hazardous waste.
The Medical Design & Manufacturing (MD&M) West exposition and conference is the place to be this week if you want to see the latest innovations in equipment and systems for medical device manufacturing. Despite all the doom and gloom you hear about the manufacturing sector, the medical device industry has been on fire for the last decade, and shows no signs of let up. Innovations in technology are on the rise as everyone is looking to do things smaller, faster, and more reliably. I like to stroll the aisles looking for what’s 'just out.' If you do too, drop by Miyachi Unitek’s booth - #3051.
One of the great things about working for Miyachi Unitek Corporation is the company’s near-religious zeal for innovation. I feel like it’s really in our “DNA,” - and while it can be frustrating to ‘finish’ a new technical datasheet only to find out that the product has been tweaked/improved in the time it took to print it - it’s something that I’m proud to be a part of. As a company, we have always provided not only equipment, but also complete manufacturing solutions, which require an understanding of both equipment and process. We are always helping people answer the question, “Is there a better way to do this?”
That innovative spirit recently got its just rewards, as Miyachi Unitek was named one of 14 finalists in the Patrick Soon-Shiong Innovation Awards, presented by the Los Angeles Business Journal and NantWorks. We were honored as an organization that “expands the boundaries of its industry and leads the region in impactful innovation.” I have to admit it felt good to get kudos for some of the technical innovations we have spearheaded in the past decade, and recognition for the impact some of these innovations. I’d like to give our readers just a few examples.
- Application of three-dimensional laser cutting for production of arthroscopic surgery devices – This is a method of using a five-axis motion platform to achieve true three dimensional contour cutting for a shaver used to cut away and remove unwanted fragments of the cartilage from a joint during arthroscopic surgery. With this technique, the edge quality of the laser cut tube is nearly flawless, minimizing the extent of secondary manufacturing process steps. This means better shavers, better surgeries, lower risks and ultimately a better quality of life for many people.
- New welding technique enables crack free welding of high silicon Al-Si controlled expansion alloys and aluminum 4047 for aerospace electronic packages – Using a novel concept, we enabled crack-free welding of 70 percent silicon alloys, which are lightweight, high thermal conductivity alloys that are used for RF and microwave packages and other critical heat sinking applications. Miyachi Unitek modified the solidification process without using post weld heat treatment. By using a fillet weld geometry and moving the weld close to the edge of the package the isotherms around the weld are modified such that the thermal gradient is reduced and re-orientated. The result included crack-free welds in the highest silicon content alloy, CE7.
- Advances in laser welding systems and technology for medical device manufacturing – This innovation includes motion and laser control techniques beneficial to hermetic laser seam welding of implantable devices. Using special software to achieve “position-based firing” along the contour, we developed a method that fired the laser in response to its actual position along the contour at any point in time. We also developed new metals joining production methods using “green light” (532nm) pulsed welding lasers, which facilitates precision welding of copper and gold alloys. This offers a true metallurgical weld, consistent high-reliability electrical connections with no long term resistance drift, and a non-contact process that completely eliminates risks of electro-static discharge or physical damage to the parts being joined.
- New force-based bend align increases yield and throughput for manufacturing pump lasers for the telecom industry – This unique force-based algorithm is used for deforming pump laser diode packages back into alignment. The packages are part of fiber laser amplifiers used to boost a telecommunications signal as it’s transmitted over vast distances. With the force based bend align method, the signal is peaked faster and in many cases with increased coupling over position based systems. The increased coupling provides improved amplification of the signal and greater signal to noise ratio.
- Enabling high performance optoelectronic modules using novel gas-conserving resistance welding electrode system – This new projection welding technique dramatically reduces the amount of Xenon gas needed to backfill a package. Xenon has good thermal properties and does not enter into slow chemical reactions with other materials that can cause degraded performance and reliability. However, it is extremely expensive, and many existing processes waste the costly gas during backfilling. The new technique enables packages to be evacuated, and then filled with gas before being hermetically sealed using projection welding. This process consumes as little as 5 cubic centimeters of Xenon gas, costing only $0.75 per part.
We’ve spent a lot of time this past year talking about our medical tube cutting capabilities, and, as you might guess, we’ve been getting a lot of calls on the subject. Let me start by saying that successful thin wall metal tube cutting is all about the results: excellent precision, superior edge quality, and tight dimensional tolerances - and so it makes sense that our customers and prospects are concerned about getting the “perfect” laser for the job. Achieving these precision cuts, however, isn’t all about the laser – it’s more about its successful integration into a complete system.
What exactly does this integration entail? Well, to start, in addition to the “perfect laser,” each application requires a workstation, focusing optics, assist gas, a motion package with programmable motion, full-featured control software with post processor capability and a user friendly and intuitive interface. Integrators need to develop an entire system in which all of these elements work together to achieve the necessary cut quality, production throughput and minimal downtime.
When cutting single-sided features on a tube, a portion of the laser power may pass through the cut, impinging on the opposing wall’s interior surface. Depending on the tube’s internal diameter, this may affect the material, resulting in either a slight color change or material removal that can often be corrected with electro polishing or another, similar post-process.