MDT Roundtable Q&A – Plastic Micromachining

Medical Design Technology® - November/December 2010 Issue

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John Whynott
Technical Product Manager
Mikrotech, Division of ASYST Technologies LLC
Kenosha, WI, USA

Question: What new plastic micromachining developments are on the way or have been recently introduced?

JW: Over the last decade, a number of new technologies have been developed in the field of micromachining in response to growth driven by the demand to make products smaller. It’s changing the way designers look at developing components for their medical devices. These new technologies will give medical device designers increased flexibility to add complex features into a smaller package size. These capabilities will allow them to more easily differentiate their products from the competition and thereby acquire a sustaining competitive advantage and pricing power.

Question: How do medical device OEMs realize the greatest savings in cost/time to market with machining?

JW: During the product development cycle, medical device designers will typically design machined components for prototyping and design verification. Machining is a very cost-effective solution and one of the fastest ways to obtain components during the initial stages of the product development cycle. The combination of the two provides a perfect balance for designing medical devices. The design of a medical device for minimally invasive surgery (MIS) can often have many different design iterations before the final appearance and functionality of the product is complete.

Question: What avoidable error do designers/manufacturers make when specifying machined components?

JW: Companies will often go to machine components to launch medical devices for FDA submission. It allows companies to launch the device quickly and obtain design stability in the marketplace prior to considering converting to molding. But for the medical device industry, one of the pitfalls of attempting to convert machined components to molding is after FDA approval. The conversion is more often than not met with roadblocks that result in opportunity costs of lost time and inability to capture the full cost benefit of converting from machining to molding. DO: Cost saving can usually be realized if the machining supplier is brought into the design function by improving the design for manufacturability. Many times, small changes that do not affect component function can lead to dramatic savings by designing components to standard size tooling and eliminating features that are costly to produce. The supplier will challenge the necessity for the features that drive up the component cost.

Final Word: Thoughts/comments on machining processes, materials, or equipment?

JW: Advances in machining technology have given designers greater flexibility to design smaller, more complex devices for minimally invasive surgery while not compromising manufacturability. These changes in technology will potentially increase the growth of the MIS market by allowing conventional medical devices used for open surgical procedures to be converted to MIS procedures.

John Whynott is Technical Product Manager of Mikrotech a division of ASYST Technologies LLC. He was appointed to his current role in January 2004. Previously, he served as Engineering Manager and Project Engineer. John has six years experience in micro moulding and a combined twenty years experience in engineering and management. He earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering technology from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside and a master's degree in engineering management from the Milwaukee School of Engineering.

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Mikrotech, LLC
9900 58th Place
Kenosha, WI

Tel 262.577.0232