Today’s manufacturing is vastly different from the rudimentary manufacturing systems of the past. Instead of relying upon inefficient and rudimentary product development, CNC (computer-numerical control) machining allows for machinery to generate remarkably accurate shapes and patterns to be cut from raw stock pieces in a relatively brief amount of time. In turn, these blanks can be easily transformed into custom-designed parts fairly quickly, while still falling within tightly regulated tolerances.
When a higher level of precision is required, in addition to a prolific volume output, then the benefits of CNC machining become so much more evident. CNC machining, unlike conventional machining methods, stands apart in its ability to create incredibly detailed and accurate three-dimensional shapes. Through careful programming and the aid of CAD/CAM technology, these blanks — which can come in a wide range of materials, such as glass, wood, metal, and other types of composites — are transformed into important devices that cover a vast array of uses.
While CNC machining was originally used to oversee the manufacture of airplane parts after WWII, it has quickly developed into a remarkably viable way to mass-produce carefully milled parts for a number of purposes. From modern-day manufacturing to aerospace and defense purposes, CNC has since evolved from its humble origins. Today, the application of CNC machining technology shows great promise in the medical and biotech industries, allowing for great advancements in the way healthcare providers can treat their patients.
What are the Requirements for Medical-Grade Devices?
Before CNC machined devices can be approved for medical use, they first must pass strident quality controls. After all, these devices may be used by surgeons during intricate procedures or placed directly into a living human being during one of these surgeries. Exact controls must therefore be met before they can be utilized. For instance, these devices must be created at very narrow tolerances and meet ISO standards. They must also meet exceptional levels of sanitation and cleanliness, and they should ideally come in a variety of materials to meet the various needs of the user. Without meeting these criteria, the products themselves cannot be used in medical applications.
CNC Machining in Medicine and Biotechnology
The role of CNC machining in medicine and biotechnology is unparalleled. From parts production to diagnostics and general lab equipment uses, the import of CNC machining cannot be overstated.
Surgical Equipment. Gone are the days of calling a doctor “Old Sawbones.” These days, surgeons are able to treat their patients using only the best in medical technological advancements. CNC machining is, therefore, an indispensable tool for this application. Not only can it be used to create an assortment of surgical equipment (such as forceps, surgical scissors, and biopsy tubes), but it can also be drafted to help facilitate sterilization and sanitization. These tools can be made from materials such as titanium and surgical stainless steel, giving doctors — and patients — a better possible outcome during surgery.
Electronic Medical Devices. CNC machining isn’t just for tools and equipment, either. It can also be used in the manufacturing of certain electronic medical devices, such as radiography machines, MRI scanners, and heart rate monitors. Unlike implants (which may come in contact with the patient), the tools used in medical devices can be made from an assortment of materials and may not necessarily need to be biocompatible. In addition, the manufacturing of these devices often requires the creation of many complex parts, but CNC machining can help take the guesswork out of their fabrication. Because these devices must be created to the highest of standards to help prevent failure, the role of CNC machining is all the more integral.
Nanotechnology and Micromachining. When many people think of CNC machining and medicine, the more evident applications frequently come to mind. However, the scope of this technology covers a wider berth than just the obvious uses. It can also be applied in the fields of dentistry, ophthalmology, and even disease management. For these patients, CNC machining can not only improve their quality of life, but it can also be lifesaving. Its use can help ensure consistent delivery of medications (such as insulin pumps), improved and restored vision from the use of intraocular implants, and even help save lives through the aid of stents and microscopic screws and pacemaker parts.
Implants and Replacements. One of the most promising applications of CNC machining is in the field of medical implants and bodily replacements. In this application, the use of CNC machining can help create incredibly precise medical parts on an impressively short turnaround time. Furthermore, it can create a one-off restoration, or it can generate a high volume of parts while also using a variety of biocompatible materials such as titanium and PEEK (polyether ether ketone) plastics. This is especially vital, as these parts cannot run the risk of breaking down or corroding inside a patient. From hip and spine replacements to cochlear implants, CNC machining is an essential benefactor to the quality of life in the recipients of these parts.
Laboratory Uses. Modern innovations are often borne from necessity, and the role of CNC machining has also had a hand in these impressive advancements. Not only does this technology help keep laboratory equipment running at peak performance, but it also helps oversee the handling of delicate reagents and tools. Without it, these laboratories would not be able to work at the level of optimal efficiency in which they currently operate. Thanks to CNC machining, however, laboratory technicians can carry out their duties without having to worry about unexpected equipment failure or inaccurate results from their diagnostic tests. In turn, we can continue to expect increased advancements to come out of these labs and improve our lives.
CNC Machining: The Future of Healthcare
No doubt, CNC machining is one of the most essential manufacturing tools in modern medicine. From its use in implants and replacement parts to its role in laboratory equipment and medical devices, it has an impressive potential to dramatically shape the way healthcare providers and technicians care for patients. And, as we continue to improve on this technology, we can continue to count on a dramatic improvement in the way we approach both healthcare and medical technology overall.