2015. augusztus 31., hétfő, 18:12
Manufacturing technology for instruments, implants and other medical technology products will be showcased in the Medical Area at the METAV 2016 in Düsseldorf. Two of the METAV’s exhibitors report on the progressively more important role that tools are playing in this sophisticated sector.
In terms of sophistication, medical technology has a lot in common with the aircraft industry: for instance, there is a growing demand for tools that can machine very sophisticated and expensive materials. “In the case of an aircraft, drilling accounts for a large proportion of the machining operations involved,” explains Lothar Horn, Managing Director of the hard-metal-tool factory Hartmetall-Werkzeugfabrik Paul Horn GmbH, Tübingen. And he continues: “Medical technology companies, by contrast, do significantly more turning and milling.” In terms of value, the Horn company achieves around 50 per cent of their total sales with the automotive industry and 15 per cent with medical technology. Due primarily to rising global demand for implants and prostheses, this market has since 1995 grown by around 5 per cent each year, according to the Chairman of the Precision Tools Association in the German Engineering Federation (VDMA).
Design enhancement with the customer
One of the firm’s specialities is responsively individualised development of tools as ordered by a customer. To quote Lothar Horn: “For one customer, who attaches great importance to high productivity, we developed a special milling tool for artificial hip joints. For this purpose, we design-enhanced our triple-cutter system to incorporate six cutters, which has increased productivity by 30 per cent.” But such substantial improvements in the process, he adds, can usually be achieved only in close consultative coordination with the customer.
This, too, is why tools for medical technology are very seldom bought from a catalogue. “We almost always have to match the products to the application concerned, so as to survive and prosper on the market here with “German engineering craftsmanship,” Lothar Horn has realised after long years of involvement in the medical technology sector. “But if you manage that, you can survive and prosper anywhere in the world.” He corroborates this statement with an experience of Far Eastern cogency: one of Horn’s customers, from the Black Forest, was able, thanks to increased productivity to recover an order lost to China: now he is manufacturing almost 500 million bone screws a year, more affordably than the Chinese. The secret behind this success, says Lothar Horn, is ultra-precise harmonisation of the machine, the mount and the tool, which has led to a substantial increase in quality and output.
Horn will be showcasing innovations of this kind for medical technology in the Medical Area at the METAV 2016. “We were one of the first exhibitors to book a stand in Düsseldorf at a very early stage, because back in 2014 we had a lot of success at the METAV and in the Medical Area there”, is how he explains the reasoning behind the decision. “In Düsseldorf, Horn will be showcasing various solutions for machining jobs in the field of medical technology.”
Whirling needed: often, too, specialised tools like this whirling unit are wanted for manufacturing medical technology parts (here: bone screws). Photo: Horn
High demand for specialised tools
All the customers of Fraisa GmbH from Willich insist on ultra-stringent stipulations for their metal-cutting tools, but medical technology poses a particularly tough challenge for the company. For example, it creates tools for producing surgical instruments made of stainless steel (high-alloyed austenitic steels such as 1.4301), implants made of titanium or cobalt-chromium (CoCr) alloys, and instruments made of carbon-fibre composites.
“Around 30 to 40 per cent of the tools involved are specialised designs,” explains Michael Ohlig, Head of Sales and Marketing. “The paramount factors concerned are reproducibility, availability of the products and validated production processes.” In addition, he continues, the sector attaches major importance to a high metal removal rate and a long useful lifetime. Due to frequent reworking of the components involved, by contrast, the surface quality often plays a less important role. To quote Michael Ohlig: “Some manufacturers don’t opt for high-gloss polishing with their implants, they even roughen them.”
Customised: around 30 to 40 per cent of the tools involved are specialised designs that Fraisa matches to the process concerned and tests appropriately. Photo: Fraisa
Increasing use of manufactured-to-shape machining
There is increasing demand for manufactured-to-shape machining in a single setting, which thanks to reduction of non-productive times significantly upgrades productivity levels. Fraisa is responding to this trend, for example, with its Toro-SB or Sphero-SB milling tools, which are suitable for all 2D, 2.5D and 3D machining jobs involving stainless austenitic steels. The new ZX milling unit is ideal for high-performance machining of titanium and CoCr alloys.
The company is numbered among the METAV’s regular and long-standing exhibitors, not only because of its regional proximity (25 km away). “We regard it as our local trade fair, where we use our own stand to foster existing contacts and gain new ones,” comments Michael Ohlig. “I think it’s great that new features like the Medical Area or the Moulding Area are being introduced. Fraisa will in Düsseldorf be exhibiting the new “NVDS” high-performance milling tools and the “ToolExpert Helix/Ramp” cutting data computer.”
Author: Nikolaus Fecht, specialist journalist from Gelsenkirchen