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How CNC Machining is Used in the Medical Industry

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How CNC Machining is Used in the Medical Industry

The medical industry requires extremely precise parts and components. When dealing with people’s health, maintaining quality and the highest standards is essential. The medical industry is one where failure simply isn’t an option. To meet the high demands of the medical and healthcare industry, precision CNC machine shops manufacture a variety of parts. 

CNC machines have the unique capabilities to produce high quantities of parts that meet exact specifications. In 2020, Spex and other machine shops shifted to manufacture essential medical equipment like ventilators that were needed as quickly as possible. 

In this article we’ll explain how the medical industry uses CNC machining to help and serve millions of people around the world. 

Why is CNC machining used for medical parts?

Two of the primary benefits of CNC machining is the ability to produce high quantities of parts, and maintain tight tolerances. 

The medical industry often requires custom parts. CNC machines can be programmed to make complex metal parts. The custom part blueprint can be loaded into the machine and production can start within a few hours. This allows for rapid prototyping, and the ability to make thousands of identical parts quickly.

CNC machines use a variety of cutting tools to make unique cuts, angles, and other part features with great precision and repeatability. This helps the medical industry get custom machined parts at a lower cost.

The parts used in the medical industry need to be very precise. A lot of medical equipment has hundreds, or even thousands, of tiny parts packed together into a machine or medical device. All of those tiny parts need to be carefully machined to eliminate the chances of failure. 

Many medical components are also harder metals like stainless steel and titanium to maintain sterility and meet strength requirements. The right CNC machines can cut hard metals like titanium and high-grade stainless steel better than most machining processes.

Lastly, CNC machining offers speed and efficiency that benefits the medical industry. 

In early 2020, many machine shops (including Spex) transitioned to help manufacture parts for ventilators and other much-needed medical equipment. 

CNC machines can make rapid prototypes, and produce thousands of unique, identical parts. After the set up process, CNC machines can run 24/7 without requiring much human help. This helps speed up the supply chain and eliminate long waiting periods. CNC machining is also the most efficient way to machine high quantities of parts which lowers costs. 

Precision and accuracy in medical CNC machining

Precision and accuracy are crucial factors in the medical industry, where even minor deviations can have significant consequences for patient safety and device performance. The high level of precision and accuracy achievable with CNC machining makes it an ideal choice for manufacturing critical medical components.

CNC machines are controlled by computer programs that guide the cutting tools with unmatched precision, resulting in parts that are consistently produced within ±0.0005” tolerances. This ensures that each component meets the stringent requirements of medical devices, which often demand exact dimensions and fit to function correctly and safely.

In addition to precision and accuracy, CNC machining also provides repeatability, ensuring that each part is manufactured identically over multiple production runs. This is particularly important in the medical industry, where consistency and reliability are paramount. The ability to produce complex and intricate geometries further enhances CNC machining’s suitability for medical applications, enabling the creation of advanced devices and components that improve patient care and treatment outcomes.

Common applications for CNC machining for medical industry

CNC machining can be used to make parts of virtually any size, shape, and material. For the medical industry, this can mean machining simple parts like surgical scissors, and complex systems like a heart rate monitor.

There are 3 main categories of medical equipment that can use CNC machined parts.

  • Medical implants
  • Surgical instruments
  • Parts for electronic equipment

Medical implants like a knee replacement require uniquely shaped parts, usually made with titanium or stainless steel. Because these parts are less common, and unique to each patient, either CNC machining or 3D printing is used. 

Surgical instruments like scissors, handles, and forceps are simple devices are typically one or two simple metal components. When precision and tight tolerances are needed, CNC machining is used to make these components.

CNC machines also manufacture parts for more complex equipment, such as heart rate monitors, X-ray machines, and MRI scanners. This equipment has thousands of precision pins, fasteners, spacers, and screws that fit together. Most of them are manufactured using CNC machines. These parts include tiny components such as buttons, switches, precision screws, connectors, and much more.

Brass and copper parts are commonly found in external medical devices. The natural antimicrobial and antibacterial properties in copper make it suitable in hospital settings.

Medical parts and components must offer exceptional precision to reduce the risk of machine failure as much as possible. Especially since the machines are often being used all day and moved from room to room.

Other medical devices like stents, drug delivery systems, and parts for implants and devices are precision machined. Since these parts are in contact with people’s body, they need to be exceptionally precise and sterile. They’re also designed to be as small as possible, which requires a lot of precision. CNC machines and Swiss style screw machines can make small intricate parts that are ideal for these applications.

In general, CNC machining gives manufacturers the ability to use the right materials and maintain the tight tolerances that the medical industry needs.

Emerging trends and future developments

As the medical industry continues to evolve and innovate, manufacturers must adapt to meet the ever-changing needs. The following emerging trends and developments are shaping the landscape of CNC machining in the medical industry:

  1. Advanced materials: The development and adoption of advanced materials, such as bioresorbable polymers and shape-memory alloys, are driving innovation in medical devices. CNC machining must be capable of handling these new materials, which often have unique properties and machining requirements.
  2. Integration of additive manufacturing: While CNC machining remains a critical technology in medical manufacturing, additive manufacturing methods like 3D printing are gaining traction as a complementary process. Combining the two technologies can provide the best of both worlds, enabling the production of complex and custom components that aren’t possible with either method alone.
  3. AI-driven design optimization: The use of artificial intelligence and machine learning in design optimization can help identify ways to improve the efficiency, performance, and cost-effectiveness of medical components. By integrating these advanced design tools with CNC machining, manufacturers can produce more innovative and effective medical devices.
  4. Smart factories: The increasing adoption of smart factory technologies will transform the way medical devices are manufactured. CNC machining facilities that invest in automation, data-driven decision-making, and advanced monitoring systems can increase productivity, reduce waste, and improve overall efficiency.
  5. Personalized medicine and patient-specific devices: As the focus on personalized medicine grows, there’s an increasing demand for patient-specific medical devices, such as customized implants and prosthetics. The ability to produce one-off, custom components quickly and accurately will continue to be a growing need.

These emerging trends and future developments highlight the dynamic nature of the medical industry and the need for CNC machining to evolve and adapt. 

By staying at the forefront of these advancements, CNC machining can continue to play a crucial role in the production of cutting-edge medical devices and components, ultimately improving patient care and outcomes.

Our machining capabilities

Precision machine shops need to ensure that the medical components and devices they produce are safe, reliable, and effective, meeting the high expectations of the medical industry. Spex offers a great range of tight tolerance parts and diverse material and design abilities. We have worked with customers in a variety of industries and work with engineers and product designers to manufacture the exact parts they need. 

Our machine shop and industry relationships allow us to produce virtually any part, and use any material.

The CNC machines we use allow for 100% customization of production, rapid prototyping, and ultra-precise part production. Whether you need 10 custom parts, or 1,000,000, our precision machine shop can help maintain the quality and help you manage your supply chain efficiently

CNC machines also allow us to run jobs 24/7 which results in customers getting large orders quickly and efficiently. 

Spex is an ISO 9001:2015 certified machine shop, which means that our teams are required to maintain quality standards and make investments for continuous improvements.

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