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Precision Springs for Medical Manufacturing

Ed Jones
By Ed Jones Marketing Manager, John Evans' Sons

Medical device manufacturing is at the forefront of innovation, making it one of the most critical industries. Spring manufacturers have been fortunate enough to play a major role in the development of articulated instruments for medical device design. Springs are frequently used in products like dental X-ray equipment, surgical staplers, drug infusers, and more.

Growing Need for Precision

Trends in surgery and healthcare have had a tremendous impact on medical device manufacturing. An article published in Becker’s Hospital Review predicts that innovation with medical device makers will continue to grow in 2017.

Surgical applications in the cardiovascular and orthopedic fields are the biggest forces behind this innovation. Laparoscopic surgery has transformed major surgeries into minor, minimally invasive procedures. As a result, medical devices such as surgical robots are designed to do minute, precise movements.

These devices have gotten smaller and smaller, and so have device components, like springs. While components are getting smaller, they are increasingly more complex. This growing demand for precision in the medical industry directly influences manufacturing.

Because of precision, spring manufacturers recommend micro-coil technology for medical devices. With this technology, springs are designed to meet extremely small dimensions in pacemakers and other medical devices. Typically, wire size in these devices can be as small as 0.03 mm.

Custom spring manufacturers are producing spring assemblies for medical devices that don’t even exist yet, especially as more of these devices require micro components for precision and accuracy.

As with any industry, the need for quality also comes with a need for cost reduction. Now more than ever, medical device manufacturers are seeking precision springs that won’t hurt their bottom line.

Common Springs for Medical Devices

Springs are often more cost-effective and precise than motors, decreasing medical device size. Springs are integrated into the design of devices for motion control and counterbalancing purposes to assist or enhance articulated instruments.

There are a few common types of springs used in medical devices, but because of precision and customization, it’s common to have an assembly that would include one or more of these springs.

  1. Constant force springs: These springs provide a smooth range of motion and constant load when extending or retracting, hence their name. This is why these springs are frequently used in surgical equipment and applications that require steady, exact movements. Constant force springs are often the preferred spring in many medical devices for their performance and durability.

  2. Spiral torsion springs: Spiral torsion springs are typically used in applications requiring less than 360 degrees of rotation. Typically, these springs are used in medical applications like a dental X-ray head unit. In this instance, the device needs to be able to rotate in two directions and then “return to center”.

  3. Spring powered reels: Medical equipment designers can use spring reels to counterbalance a moving mechanism in the operating room or mobile monitor. Spring reels are often recommended for applications that require a long deflection. Spring reels with cable retractors are frequently used in wiring harness and pneumatic/hydraulic hose management in medical equipment.

Again, more medical device applications will likely require a custom assembly that includes one or more of these types of springs, especially as healthcare technology becomes increasingly advanced. To ensure quality and reduce spring cost associated with the medical device manufacturing, design engineers should seek a knowledgeable spring manufacturing partner. To achieve optimal product performance, it’s best to discuss product design with a contract manufacturer as soon as possible, preferably before a prototype is developed.

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