We had a successful show at the MD&M East NYC show this year. It is great to be able to share our electroplating expertise with the medical device industry. Our patented catheter plating innovations, Torq-Lok and Vizi-Band, have caused much excitement in the medical device manufacturing world. If you did not get a chance to attend the show or stop by our booth you can still call or email us for test samples today!
An additive manufacturing process, electroplating can be used to manufacture devices used in a host of procedures, including minimally invasive surgeries.
Ross Peterson and Craig Ingalls
Posted on MDDI Online in Surface Treatment Services by bmichaels on June 2, 2015
An electroplating process from ProPlate atomically bonds metal directly to each catheter braid–pic crossing, fusing them together. By fusing every strand intersection, the individual strands become monocoque, eliminating the relative slip of strand across strand.
Historically, electroplating has been used to add a thin layer of a precious metal—typically gold—to an electrical connector to improve corrosion resistance. However, recent collaborations between electroplating professionals and medical device designers have resulted in the development of new applications based on this versatile manufacturing technology. Consequently, from traditional to innovative designs, the medical device industry can benefit from the electroplating process in many ways.
Accomplished by immersing parts in a series of liquid chemistries, the electroplating process is used to coat metals and sometimes plastics with a layer of another metal. Generally, these immersions include one or more cleaning steps, an activation step in which the surface of the part is stripped of its attached oxygen molecules, and a plating step in which the part is electrically charged to attract and attach metal atoms that are dissolved in the plating bath.
An additive manufacturing process, electroplating is performed by building up plating layers measuring as thin as 0.000003 in. at a very slow rate. In a related process known as electroforming, plating layers are built on a disposable or reusable mandrel. When this mandrel is removed, the electroformed part remains behind—a process by which the part is not coated but fabricated from scratch. Thus, electroplating can be used to fabricate entire parts, often many at one time.
How Electroplating Enhances Medical Devices
Electroplating can be employed to enhance medical device functionality in myriad ways. For example, electroplated metals can be used to conduct heat and electricity, offer good wear and corrosion resistance, produce strong welds, create antimicrobial and biocompatible surfaces, and fabricate such device features as radiopaque markers and catheter braiding.
Capable of being performed anywhere along a catheter braid shaft or similar device, electroplating can be used to create a radiopaque metal coating that bonds the catheter braid at the atomic level.
Improving the Medical Device Design Process
Small mechanical design considerations can either support or hinder the electroplating process. For example, substituting one electroplated metal for another can dramatically reduce costs and increase device performance. By the same token, if such simple routines as cutting tool path routings are performed incorrectly, the part can fail at the electroplating stage.
Devices can fail for a variety of reasons: Component parts can separate, welds on dissimilar materials can break, or mechanical crimps can weaken. Employing the electroplating process enables manufacturers to avoid these failure modes. For example, dissimilar metals can be made similar by added a thin electroplated layer to the surface, thereby making the weld more consistent and robust. And crimped joints can be replaced by electroplated joints, creating an atomic-level bond between two different components.
Unfortunately, surface finishing is seldom considered during the design process. Professional electroplaters often receive quotation requests for parts with less than optimal surface finishes. They also view manufacturability considerations differently from other manufacturers, such as precision metal stampers. The stamper might be concerned with achieving a certain radius, while the electroplater will question whether the radius will form a liquid surface-tension drop, making it difficult to rinse.
Because OEM designers frequently do not have comprehensive knowledge of the electroplating process, they should rely on electroplating experts when designing medical device parts. However, the history of the relationship between electroplaters and their customers is filled with stories of poor quality. First, being a chemical process, electroplating requires a high degree of process management. Furthermore, the electroplating industry is composed primarily of small companies that frequently lack the resources and skills necessary for providing the requisite process management capabilities. Thus, medical device manufacturers should review the quality systems in place at prospective electroplating suppliers to determine that they are thorough and—most importantly—that they are in fact being followed.
How Patients Benefit from Electroplating
To reduce hospital stays and control healthcare costs, minimally invasive surgical procedures and correspondingly smaller surgical tools are needed. Patients also benefit from the use of minimally invasive medical devices because they make the surgical experience less traumatic while accelerating recovery times.
As an additive manufacturing process, electroplating can be used to manufacture tools and instruments used in minimally invasive procedures. For example, an electroplated catheter can be employed to accurately and quickly place a device such as a stent or a valve in the body. A valuable tool in the designers toolbox, the electroplating process can therefore provide solutions to many of the challenges confronting medical device designers in today’s difficult healthcare environment.
Ross Peterson is marketing, project manager at Anoka, MN–based ProPlate. Reach him at email@example.com.
Craig Ingalls is owner and president of Anoka, MN–based ProPlate. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are happy to announce that we made it in the top five finalists in the Qmed Supplier Innovation Challenge.
The Supplier Innovation Challenge winner will be selected during MD&M East, June 9-11 in New York City. Here is a link to all five finalists.
To learn more about our catheter coating innovations, Torq-Lok & Vizi-Band, please stop by our booth. #2367
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