While CNC machining has been around for decades serving many industries, the medical industry was among the slowest industries to adopt computer numerical control (CNC) technology.
Back in 1961, CNC machining was already gaining popularity in the aerospace and defense industry. Meanwhile, John Charnley (the father of hip replacement surgery) was still fabricating prostheses by himself using a manual lathe and bench tools. Thankfully, he made ground-breaking contributions to the medical field before anyone could question the precision and ergonomics of the artificial hips he was machining at the time.
Since that time, a lot has changed, and CNC machining is now at the forefront of machining technologies used in the medical industry. This article covers seven of the most common applications for CNC machining in the medical industry today.
7 Applications for CNC Medical Parts Manufacturing
Applications for CNC machining range from medical implants to surgical tools to medical devices and more.
#1 Hip Replacements and Knee Implants
Like with any other piece of machined medical hardware, bodily implants, such as knee implants and hip replacements, require a high level of precision and accuracy. A slight mistake during manufacturing, and the life and well-being of the patient could be affected significantly.
CNC Swiss machines are helping to accurately craft patient-specific parts while achieving tolerances as small as 4μm. After receiving a request from an orthopedist, a CNC machine center creates a CAD model and recreates the body part through reverse engineering and CNC technology.
The medical industry requires these implants to be made of biocompatible materials, such as PEEK and titanium. These materials are challenging to machine — they generate excessive heat during machining, and coolants are often prohibited due to fear of contamination. CNC machines are helping to solve this challenge as they boast compatibility with a wide array of materials.
#2 Surgical Tool Production
Complex surgical procedures require highly precise, specialized tools. These instruments range from simple scalpels and scissors to intricate robotic arms for minimally invasive surgeries. These tools must be manufactured to a high degree of precision. CNC machining plays a vital role in producing these surgical tools required for various medical procedures.
CNC machines can achieve complex geometries and tight tolerances, making them ideal for producing intricate surgical tool designs. For instance, robotic-assisted surgical instruments can be machined using CNC technology to ensure the highest level of precision, allowing surgeons to perform complex procedures with greater accuracy and fewer complications.
#3 Electronic Medical Equipment
Many medical devices like MRI scanners, heart rate monitors, and X-ray machines feature thousands of CNC-machined electronic components. Examples include switches, buttons, and levers, as well as electronic housings and casings.
Unlike implants and surgical tools, these medical devices do not need to be biocompatible since they do not make direct contact with the patient’s internal systems. However, the manufacturing of these parts is still largely supervised and controlled by several regulatory bodies.
Non-compliance to the standards set by these regulatory bodies could attract hefty fines (or sometimes imprisonment) for the machine shop. There have also been cases where the medical professionals involved lost their medical licenses. As such, you must choose your medical device manufacturers wisely.
#4 Custom Prosthetics
Personalization is becoming increasingly important in medical care, and nowhere is this more evident than in the field of prosthetics. Patients require prosthetic devices that fit their bodies perfectly, and traditional mass-production techniques often are unable to meet patient needs.
CNC machining is transforming the field of prosthetics, allowing for the production of custom-made devices tailored to the unique physiological characteristics of each patient. Using 3D scanning and CAD modeling, CNC machines can create prosthetic limbs with intricate details and highly accurate dimensions, ensuring optimal functionality and comfort for patients.
With CNC technology, prosthetic limbs can then be produced with a high level of accuracy, ensuring a comfortable and functional fit.
#5 Small Orthopedic Hardware
Orthopedic devices such as plates, screws, and rods are widely used in the medical field to repair or replace damaged bones and joints. Given the critical role these devices play in patient recovery, they must be manufactured with the utmost precision and quality.
CNC machining plays a vital role in the production of these orthopedic devices. With the ability to machine complex geometries with high precision, CNC technology is ideally suited for producing these devices. Additionally, CNC machining can handle a wide variety of biocompatible materials, including titanium and stainless steel, which are commonly used in orthopedic devices.
#6 Medical Device Prototypes
Before mass production of any medical device, it’s crucial to create prototypes for testing and validation. CNC machining provides a fast and cost-effective solution for producing medical device prototypes. With the ability to quickly produce multiple iterations of a design, engineers can test and refine the device to ensure its safety, efficacy, and compliance with regulatory requirements.
This capability is essential in the fast-paced world of medical device development, where the ability to bring a new product to market quickly can be a significant competitive advantage. CNC machining also allows for the production of small-batch prototypes, enabling manufacturers to minimize waste and save on material costs during the development process.
#7 Dental Tools and Implants
CNC Machining is crucial for delivering high-quality dental care by creating customized dental tools and implants. Dentists worldwide rely on advanced CNC technology for precise treatments. This technology is ideal for making durable instruments like drills, scalers, probes, and forceps, which are essential for various procedures.
Producing these instruments requires exceptional durability to withstand sterilization while ensuring patient safety. CNC manufacturing provides repeatability and strict quality control, guaranteeing that each tool meets rigorous standards.
Dental Implants, which offer a long-term solution for missing teeth, require precise customization using CNC manufacturing technology. These implants are created based on digital scans, ensuring accurate and personalized fit for each patient. CNC machining has revolutionized prosthetic creation in dentistry, improving treatment outcomes.
By efficiently utilizing materials like titanium and zirconia, CNC technology enables precise modifications with remarkable efficiency and effectiveness.
How to Choose a Machine Shop for Medical Precision Components
So, let’s say you’ve come up with the design of a medical implant, instrument, or device and are ready to outsource manufacturing to a third-party machine shop. Here are two essential things you should look out for in a third-party manufacturer.
ISO 9001 and ISO 13485 Certifications are Essential
You want to make sure you’re working with a machine shop that meets the requirements of ISO 9001 and ISO 13485.
An ISO 9001 certified machine shop adheres strictly to statutory and regulatory requirements by ensuring high-quality machining services. ISO 13485 is an international standard that provides specifications for a quality management system for manufacturers of medical devices or instruments.
Look for Highly Experienced Engineers and Quality Control Experts
The machining industry is flooded with inexperienced CNC operators and technicians. And to make things worse, many machining centers lack a quality management system to inspect the medical parts being machined by these technicians.
You want to make sure you’re working with a machine shop that has highly experienced engineers, as well as CNC quality control experts. This will save you from the hassle of going through the product development phase twice.
Gensun Precision Machining is a leading provider of medical CNC machining services around the world. Backed by nearly two decades of CNC experience, we have a reputation for creating high-quality medical components using state-of-the-art CNC technology.
We have a team of highly experienced CNC technicians and quality control experts, and our facility is ISO 9001 and ISO 13485 certified. Tell us about your project today, and let us help you create medical precision parts exactly to your specification.