CNC machining has emerged as a significant technology in a number of different manufacturing contexts, and it is particularly crucial in the production of medical devices.
To unpick exactly why this is the case, here is a look at the benefits that CNC machining brings to the table in this industry.
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Precision is impeccable
There are many types of CNC machines used in medical device manufacturing, but the thing which connects them all is the precision with which they can operate.
This is relevant because producing medical devices requires incredibly tight tolerances, which of course computer-controlled equipment achieves far more consistently than would be possible when relying on traditional, manual methods of manufacturing.
Of course not all CNC machines are created equal, but the highest-grade examples can deliver accuracy to within a thousandth of an inch, which is needed when the parts themselves cannot afford to deviate from the original design.
Automation is innate
The second selling point of CNC machining for medical device manufacturers is that it allows for part production to be automated. This cuts down the amount of time it takes to make devices, which in turn means that costs are minimized as output increases.
The other perk that comes with automation is that making custom parts which are made to the precise measurements of specific patients is just as easy as pumping out identically designed components time after time. This caters to the adaptability and versatility that are so important in this industry, while also making unique devices more accessible to those that need them, without the associated expense.
Hygiene is assured
Because of the automation which is achievable with CNC machining, the environments in which these pieces of equipment operate can be kept incredibly clean and free from contaminants. This has relevance for medical device manufacturing because of course the parts made need to be effectively sterile when they reach the patient.
The manufacturing of medical implants, for example, would not be possible were it not for the cleanliness that CNC machining can achieve.
Certain types of CNC equipment does not even involve tooling making physical contact with the material being manipulated. For example, laser cutting and ablation machines can create pristine surfaces which are untouched by human hands and effectively sterilized by the passage of the laser itself, which all goes towards achieving the cleanliness standards set by regulators.
Versatility is available
Unless you look into it, you might not realize just how widely CNC machining is used in the manufacturing of medical devices, but even an inexhaustive list of the products which are made in part through this process should show you how versatile it can be.
We have already mentioned that medical implants can be made with CNC machines, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Everything from ultrasound scanners and MRI machines to the lighting which is used in operating theatres will usually be in part reliant upon cutting edge manufacturing equipment to come into existence.
Even tiny devices and their components, some of which are microscopically small, can be machined thanks to computer-controlled hardware. This includes stents, catheters, pacemakers and a whole host of other life-saving, life-giving products.
It is worth restating that not every CNC machine is suited to every manufacturing need, but there is enough versatility within this sector to satisfy the requirements of medical device companies.
Materials of many kinds can be machined
When most people think of CNC machining, they will likely picture a large-scale router or lathe being used to shave layer after layer off a large piece of stainless steel or another heavy-duty metallic material. While this is certainly a commonplace use for the technology, in a medical device production context it is also worth noting that lots of other materials are compatible with this equipment.
In addition to metals, the use of medical-grade plastics in combination with CNC machines is essential to this industry. And because some machines can work with more than one type of material, their efficiency and value is further enhanced.
So there you have it; CNC machining is not only vital to medical device manufacturing at the moment, but looks set to continue optimizing this marketplace going forward, in combination with other technologies such as 3D printing.