June 14, 2024

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The finished article: Finishing for medical devices

Colin Spellacy, head of sales, Rösler UK, looks at technologies used for finishing in the medical device sector. 

In the precision-driven realms of the medical industry, the roles of mass finishing and shot blasting technologies cannot be overstated. These processes, crucial for achieving the high degree of surface perfection required, are instrumental in ensuring both the reliability and safety of critical components. This article delves into the intricate world of mass finishing and shot blasting, exploring their application in the medical field, and underscoring why these technologies are indispensable for maintaining stringent quality standards the industry demands. By examining their impact on product durability, performance, and compliance with rigorous specifications, we gain insight into how these finishing processes are not just about aesthetics but are fundamental to the functionality and integrity of the components used in life-saving medical devices.

Mass finishing and shot blasting

Mass finishing and shot blasting are two distinct industrial processes used for surface finishing of components, each with its unique method and application. Mass finishing, encompassing techniques like tumbling, vibratory finishing, and centrifugal finishing, involves placing parts in a machine with abrasive media, where they are finished through a combination of mechanical and chemical actions. This method is particularly effective for deburring, smoothing, polishing, and cleaning many small to medium-sized parts simultaneously, making it ideal for intricate components with complex geometries. The gentle and controlled nature of mass finishing ensures uniform treatment of all surfaces, crucial in industries like medical, where precision and consistency are paramount.

Shot blasting, on the other hand, employs the forceful projection of abrasive materials, such as steel or glass beads, against the surface of the component. This high-energy process is excellent for cleaning, strengthening (peening), or roughening surfaces, and is often used for larger, more robust components. Its aggressive nature makes it suitable for removing heavy scale, rust, or old coatings. The choice between mass finishing and shot blasting depends on the specific requirements of the application: mass finishing is preferred for delicate, precision parts requiring uniform treatment, while shot blasting is chosen for its aggressiveness and suitability for larger, tougher components needing thorough surface preparation.

Mass finishing and shot blasting in medical applications

In the medical industry, mass finishing, prior to final sterilisation in accordance with applicable medical regulations, is essential for ensuring the safety and effectiveness of various devices. The process is widely used to smooth and polish implantable devices, surgical instruments, and other medical tools. The primary objective is to eliminate any surface irregularities that could harbour bacteria or cause patient discomfort. For instance, mass finishing is vital in the production of orthopaedic implants, where a smooth surface can significantly reduce the risk of tissue irritation and promote better integration with the body. Additionally, the process is used to clean and finish components of diagnostic equipment, ensuring that they are free of contaminants and safe for patient contact.

The importance of mass finishing and shot blasting is underscored by their direct impact on safety and performance of safety-critical devices. In the medical field, the precise and gentle finishing of devices ensures device efficacy. These processes not only contribute to the longevity and functionality of components but are also integral in complying with stringent industry standards and regulations, thereby upholding the highest safety benchmarks.

How to select a finishing supplier

To excel in providing top-tier mass finishing and shot blasting technologies, a company must possess a blend of advanced technical capabilities, extensive industry knowledge, and a commitment to innovation. At its core, the company should be equipped with state-of-the-art machinery and technology capable of handling a diverse range of materials and component geometries. This includes having a variety of mass finishing machines like tumblers, vibratory finishers, and centrifugal equipment, as well as an array of shot blasting machines suited for different applications, from gentle peening to aggressive surface cleaning. Equally important is the company’s expertise in selecting the right media, whether it be ceramic, plastic, or metallic for mass finishing, or the appropriate abrasives for shot blasting, to achieve optimal results. In addition, the company should demonstrate an ongoing investment in R&D, ensuring that its technology stays at the forefront of industry advancements, thereby offering the most efficient, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly solutions.

In addition to technical prowess, the ideal company should have a strong customer-centric profile, marked by a deep understanding of various industry requirements and a tailored approach to each project. This means not just selling equipment, but partnering with customers to understand their specific needs, whether they are in the aerospace, medical, or any other sector with stringent finishing standards. Such a company would offer comprehensive services, from initial consultation and process development to after-sales support, including maintenance and training. The ability to provide custom solutions and adapt technology to unique challenges is crucial, as is a robust global support network that ensures customers receive timely assistance regardless of their location.

By combining cutting-edge technology with personalised, industry-specific service, a company can truly deliver the best in mass finishing and shot blasting technologies, becoming a trusted ally in their clients’ pursuit of excellence. This customer-focused approach should be backed by a strong commitment to quality and safety, ensuring compliance with international standards and regulations. A provider excelling in these technologies would also prioritise sustainability, continually seeking ways to minimise environmental impact, such as by developing eco-friendly media and optimising energy efficiency in their machines. Ultimately, the hallmark of a leading company in this field is its ability to merge technical expertise with a responsive and responsible service ethos, setting the standard for innovation, reliability, and customer satisfaction in the realm of mass finishing and shot blasting technologies.