Computer Numerical Control (CNC) is the automated process to control the machine through pre-programmed software which helps to provide the parts with the highest precision and the human errors are minimized. COVID-19 has not only changed the lives of the people but also there were so many changes in the manufacturing industries. The demand for medical supplies kept growing exponentially but the lockdowns and the issues in supply chains were problematic enough to slow down the process. It looked like a disastrous situation where the shortage of supplies could have become dangerous. The need for masks, respirators, vaccines, oximeters, etc. was enormous and couldn’t be ignored.
CNC machining achieved popularity in that short time which not only helped with the shortage of human resources but also managed the supply chain disruptions. CNC machining helped in several aspects. The small manufacturing units were established in many cities across the world which helped to manage the medical supplies during a critical time of the pandemic.
CNC machining offers some remarkable advantages which becomes the reason for its popularity. Many manufacturing units are using only CNC machining to make different kinds of medical parts.
Applications of CNC Machining in the Industry
CNC machining has a huge significance in the medical industry. There’s something different about the medical industry where we see many parts which need to be customized according to the specific patient. For example, stents, implants, bone screws, etc. are the parts that are mostly made on the orders, according to the specifications provided by the surgeons and other medical consultants. CNC machining helps to provide precision which is one of the key elements in this industry.
Let’s discuss a few applications of CNC machining which are:
Surgical Instruments: CNC machining has a great advantage in the manufacturing of surgical instruments which are used in surgeries. CNC machining has an advantage because these surgical instruments are very fine. Their curves and cuts are very precise. CNC machining helps us to produce such instruments. CNC machining was life-saving during the pandemic because it served us in every problem like if we need some specific sort of forceps which is Babcock Forceps let’s assume and it wasn’t easily available in the town. The companies used CNC machining instead of relying on broke supply chains.
A few examples of the surgical instruments which are being produced by CNC machining are:
- Surgical needles
- Different kinds of forceps
- Knives (related to the medical industry)
- Cutters and many more
Implants: Surgeries with implants have gained popularity throughout the years. This procedure is applied to different body parts. The uniqueness of this procedure is that implants are customized for every single patient because the size and shape of muscles can be different for everyone. Moreover, the implants are not usually ready to be made rather they are made on order which gives CNC machining supremacy to produce the best possible solutions.
CNC machining performs exceptionally well in designing and manufacturing such implants because precision is the priority here. A few examples of implants are:
- Dental implants
- Knee cap implants
- Breast implants
- Hip implants
- Spine implants
- Hernia – Surgical mesh implants and many more
Micromachining: It is the medical field that deals with very small but critical medical machines which are implanted in humans. These medical parts work with high precision levels.
These parts are usually implanted in the human body so the chance of error should be zero. Micromachining can deliver us:
- Stents or pacemakers
- Dental abutments
- Pediatric VADs
- Gimbal lock plates
- Ophthalmic devices and many more
Materials used for CNC Machining
Medical parts contain two life cycles. Either they are disposed of or they are sterilized. The medical parts should be durable and very fine because the medical industry cannot afford any corrosion or any other unsuitable changes.
These parts should be able to retain their chemical state because they mostly stay in contact with the body parts for a long period. This is the reason why medical consultants only allow certified materials to be used only. A few examples of the materials are:
Stainless Steel: The stainless steel of often grade 304 is used in different medical instruments. It has great strength and it is corrosion free, making it ideal for use in medical instruments. Carbon and manganese resist corrosion which is being added to it. It is the most reliable grade used in the medical industry. It is formed with chromium and nickel.
Titanium: Titanium is an ideal material in the medical field. It has unique properties which make it fit for this industry. It has a unique ability to bind with bones and tissues. They are excellently effective against corrosion. Grade 5 Ti-64 alloy is the most popular type of alloy which is used in the medical field.
Alumina Ceramics: It is a very hard type of material that is being used in the medical industry. It is a compound and is very popular for implants because it is well tolerated by the human body. These unique properties make it very useful for the medical field.
There are many alloys and different grades of materials being used. We have to select the material which is according to the requirements. CNC machining particularly works best on metals but there are other materials as well which are being used. PEEK is one of them, which is very popular with many products.
We have to look into so many properties of the material that we are using. The properties are:
- Wear and tear
- Magnetic or non-magnetic
We have to take care of all these properties according to the required specifications. These properties should be taken care of at the time of the selection of the material.
Qualifications for Making CNC Machined Medical Parts
Everyone must familiar with ISO 9001 ratings for the quality in manufacturing but medical parts cannot afford any kind of negligence. Therefore, we have to meet other standards as well which are being developed by International Standards Organization (ISO).
There are several standards given by the International Standards Organization which are important to be taken care of. These qualifications are:
ISO 13485: It specifies requirements for a quality management system where an organization needs to demonstrate its ability to provide medical devices and related services that consistently meet customer and applicable regulatory requirements. Such organizations can be involved in one or more stages of the life-cycle, including design and development, production, storage and distribution, installation, or servicing of a medical device, and design and development or provision of associated activities e.g. technical support (2020, ISO).
ISO 14971: It specifies the identification of any hazards and dangers related to the manufacturing of any medical devices which helps us to control the risks. It features the control of every kind of risk like privacy, data security, environmental challenges, etc.
ISO 15223: This is another standard that focuses on the symbols used on the labels of medical devices. It ensures that the information which is being displayed satisfies the requirements.
Note: Many other standards are necessary to follow in the manufacturing of any medical device. These standards help us to maintain and manage our manufacturing process without any negligence. ISO 9001, ISO 50001, and ISO 14001 are one of them.
These standards can help develop the quality management system of the manufacturing unit. Moreover, ISO 50001 takes care of the efficient use of energy. After following these standards, we not only protect the inner manufacturing defaults but also these standards help us to properly take care of environmental pollution.
Requirements for Making CNC Machined Medical Parts
Once we get the designs and all ISO standards, some requirements are directly related to the making of medical parts and the reason behind the use of CNC machining in the medical industry.
Precision: The medical parts which we get from CNC machines should be really precise because that is one of the most important requirements in the medical industry. The products should show consistency in their use and provides quality as provided in the specifications.
Tight Tolerances: The small parts which we get from CNC machining should offer tight tolerances. The risks are higher because of their small sizes and tight tolerances become essential.
Choice of Material: As we discussed previously, the choice of the material used for producing medical equipment should be very fine. We can follow the guide according to the provided specifications to select the right material for the particular medical part.
Multi-axis CNC Machines: This 4 – 5 axis CNC machines are important for producing complex shaped parts. The use of such machines becomes essential because there is no chance of error in the medical field and more complex parts need more precision which is offered by CNC machines.
Cleanliness: The level of cleanliness required in the manufacturing of products is very high. We cannot afford germs, etc. so it is well taken care of. CNC machining also helps us to take care of cleanliness easily because there is less mess in the CNC manufacturing unit.
Packaging: After the clean and best manufacturing procedures, packaging is another requirement that needs to be handled very carefully.
Advantages of CNC Machining in the Medical Industry
CNC machining offers many perks which become the reason for its popularity. It is not only the popularity but also it has changed the dynamics of manufacturing in the medical industry. The advantages of CNC machining in the medical industry are:
Handmade Medical Parts (No): In the past, the industry relied on handmade or semi-machined parts which were ordered for the specific patient. CNC machining has reduced the production of such medical parts because it didn’t cost and is time-effective. Now, there are pre-programmed snippets available to produce some specific parts which were customized according to the requirements and are produced in no time.
Large Scale Production (No): Before CNC machining, there were manufacturing units that were producing some specific type of products. These units have to produce more products to maintain their finances. CNC machining helps us to produce more than a single type of part which makes CNC manufacturing units more flexible. CNC offers no constraint on the quantity which makes it friendly for the manufacturing units.
Portable: CNC machines are usually portable which makes manufacturing easier for some remote areas. Mid-sized machines can be installed in rural areas of developing countries which can help produce the medical parts which are required on an urgent basis. This portability enhances the medical system and can be utilized in saving many lives. Moreover, it also saves many other resources.
Fast Production: Sometimes we have to face an emergency and the required medical part for saving the life of the patient is either unavailable or needs to be customized. CNC machines offer quick production which becomes helpful in the medical industry. As CNC machines are portable and easy to run, CNC machines can be installed in hospitals to produce any part in no time.
CNC machining has gained huge respect all over the world during the pandemic. It was an emergency and CNC machining played a phenomenal role in producing the required medical parts. CNC machining not only took care of the pandemic-related products but also became a very improved way of manufacturing different medical parts such as surgical instruments, medical implants, making small lifesaving machines, etc.
CNC machining is offered for a wide range of materials as well as a wide range of products. Mostly we use it for the production of products that are made up of metals because CNC offers the highest precisions and tight tolerance. CNC machining is excellent for making medical parts in case of an emergency. The swift and smooth process helps to produce an excellent product in no time which can be lifesaving. It has given a new process of manufacturing to the existing manufacturing units which look more flexible and finer.