The production of medical devices has always required extreme finesse. Modern advancements in the understanding of medicine and its practice have generated an even higher demand for tools and materials machined with the finest tolerances possible. Precision laser cutting is at the forefront of this race.
The level of precision achieved allows for staggering innovations in the form and function of medical tools. Tight tolerances allow for complex geometric features that other production methods cannot match. Precision laser cutting allows for medical innovations well beyond what more traditional methods could achieve.
The Qualities of Precision Laser Cutting Suit Modern Medicine Well
Precision laser cutting is used in the production of medical tools for a variety of reasons:
- One of the primary reasons is the need for cuts that don’t distort the surrounding material. Many tools for cutting will warp, bend, or tear material around the cut. This is unacceptable and falls outside of the tolerances required for medical equipment. Precision laser cutting cuts both flat and tubular stocks of most plastics and metals without notable distortion on the scale required.
- Precision laser cutting also allows for extraordinary control in comparison to other methods. Extremely brief pulses in the range of picoseconds and femtoseconds give precision laser cutting the control required to achieve fine tolerances. Tolerances for parts manufactured using precision laser cutting are typically on the scale of microns. This also results in a high degree of repeatability when manufacturing parts, a necessary feature for this type of manufacturing as the demand is so high.
- These pulses are also used to perform a type of laser ablation where plastics engineered for bio-absorption are shaped without a notable transfer of heat, which would cause irreparable damage to the molecular structure.
Economic Efficiency and Production Reliability
As with any production method, the main parameter of precision laser cutting to evaluate isn’t the effectiveness alone. This effectiveness must be gauged against the cost to determine the efficiency of implementing the precision laser cutting of medical equipment.
Precision laser cutting presents one of the most economically promising manufacturing methods for the new era of small yet complex medical hardware.
There aren’t any clear competitors when it comes to producing the same tolerances within an acceptable price range.
While moving forward into the future, precision laser cutting will ensure that the latest medical advancements are available to the broadest possible range of patients, regardless of their economic situations.
Precision Instruments and Medical Tubing
The overarching trend in medical science today is the development of less invasive treatments. To minimize the invasiveness of surgical procedures, devices are inserted through increasingly small incisions and threaded through the body to greater depths.
The tools are at the end of extremely thin tubes, which are guided through veins or other openings. The tubes contain fine cords that go from the instrument back to the surgeon, allowing them to operate the tools while deep inside the patient.
These advances required the production of tubes with small diameters and very thin walls. These tubes can be as little as 0.008 inches in diameter.
Almost every cutting method will collapse and destroy these delicate tubes. The non-distortive cut of precision laser cutting is one of the only viable ways for processing these tubes.
Biocompatible Polymers and Implantable Devices
Further modern medical advances revolve primarily around the development of implantable devices.
To minimize the chances of complications and to allow the tools to dissolve into the body rather than being removed surgically gradually, these implantable devices are manufactured using the latest in biocompatible polymers.
The thermal sensitivity of these polymers requires the ultrafast bursts that only precision laser cutting can provide.
This type of micromachining is necessary to produce the latest innovative medical products and could not proceed forward without the help of precision laser cutting.
As new materials continue to emerge at the forefront of medicine, precision laser cutting will continue to provide a viable option for their processing.
A Revolution in the Manufacture of Medical Stents
Stents have revolutionized the treatment of heart disease. They effectively hold a blood vessel open, preventing a deadly collapse.
The first stents introduced were made with stainless steel. Even at this early stage, lasers were already being used to manufacture stents, although with less precise tolerance than today.
The production materials gradually changed from stainless steel to titanium allies and eventually more complex alloys of cobalt and chromium.
Eventually, advancements in precision laser cutting allowed for the production of stents with a polymer scaffold and a coating that degrades over time.
This substantially decreased the risk of blood clots forming on the stents, a long-standing problem with stents made from traditional materials.
Stents are also used in a variety of other medical fields behind the treatment of heart disease and certain forms of birth control and the treatment of kidney stones.
New Production Methods for Traditional Surgical Tools
Precision laser cutting is used to make a variety of the most innovative medical tools out there but is also used to make traditional tools better.
Surgeons have an extensive repertoire of tools for different situations. All of these tools have one thing in common, their need for precision.
These tools must have extremely regular and smooth edges. Any burrs or pits could cause delicate tissues and vessels to tear during a surgical procedure.
This is most obvious in the case of scalpels, a tool specifically for making a smooth cut. Bone saws are also made using precision laser cutting. Getting the shape of the saw precisely right is essential to prevent complications during surgery.
A surgeon requires the saw to cut in a regular and predictable manner. Any burrs from processing could cause severe problems during what is undoubtedly a very serious surgery.
Precision laser cutting is making common procedures safer and more reliable.