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outlook


Shrinking Devices Grow Supplier Opportunities


T


he Affordable Care Act has fueled a national discus- sion that’s fi lled airwaves and papers. Less talked about but just as deserving of attention are de- velopments on the practical front of the medical industry. Unprecedented breakthroughs in understanding of anatomy, affl ictions and treatments that once confounded us are driv- ing the development of less and less invasive procedures. By nature, the tools used to perform these emerging procedures and deliver treatment are smaller and more precise. As medical professionals are mastering these new tech- niques their practice is becoming more widespread. Demand for the various intravenous implants, imaging technology, and injection hardware is surging. That’s where the ripple effect is washing over the metalworking industry.


This may sound alarms for shops not equipped for the high-speed rotation, low dynamic runout machining required to perform in the industry-accepted microdrill diameter range of 0.5–2.5 mm. It shouldn’t. All your machine truly needs is high sensitivity and fi ne resolution in the feed axis. There’s a powerful tooling confi guration that can ensure shops don’t miss out on the developments shaping the future of practical medicine without investing in capital equipment or reconfi g- uring their whole operation. The combination of air turbine spindle speeders and microdrills designed and built specifi - cally for jobs that deal in microns instead of inches can make most shops capable of cashing in on the growing demand. Air-powered speeder systems supercharge a machine in a completely different way than gear-driven speeders and offer benefi ts that make micromachining a more accessible venture. For one, the machine tool spindle doesn’t rotate. The drive is in the tool itself and is powered by air that enters through the stop block. All the machine does is move the tool around and through the part. An air-powered speeder in essence gives the machine’s spindle a break and thermal expansion from high speeds is not even a consideration for affecting accuracy. And if the machine is dedicated to cutting the highly detailed, multiple-entry-point parts often required in the medical industry, this can pay big dividends. There’s more. Air-driven speeders are designed to run for


Jack Burley VP, Sales & Engineering BIG Kaiser Precision Tooling Inc.


more than 2000 hours before service, consume signifi cantly less power than spinning the machine tool spindle itself, and are compatible with automatic toolchangers. The other key ingredient is the right tool itself, the often


smaller-than-a-human-hair edge where metal meets metal in medical device work. At such small diameters, room for


The smaller-than-a-human-hair edge where metal meets metal in medical work is key.


error is almost nonexistent. The modifi cations being made to the part are so minute, any error disrupts the integrity of the entire component. We recommend a maximum total indi- cated runout (TIR) of less than 0.0025 mm and for tools to be inspected each time they are changed out. There are some fundamental requirements of the tool that can make sure delicate pieces come out correctly and con- sistently. Microtooling needs edges that are super rigid and highly resistant to abrasion and uneven wear. If the tool wears unevenly, more force is required to evacuate chips. The extra heat generated increases the chances of the tiny chips melt- ing instead of clean cuts and removal.


The best way to counteract uneven wear is with a tool that has smooth surfaces made up of ultrafi ne grade carbide, with grain sizes in the nanometer range like those available in the Sphinx line—a Swiss partner of BIG Kaiser with a core competency in microtooling. Another important consideration is the material being machined. There are so many variables in this relationship that we recommend working directly with your tooling vendor to fi nd the most durable, effective combi- nation, especially when employing a spindle speeder. The stakes are high in micromachining. But, as new discoveries unfold, medical equipment will only be getting smaller. It takes commitment and time, but with a supplier willing to be your partner, making your shop a player in the medical game doesn’t need to be a scary proposition.


25 — Medical Manufacturing 2015


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