More durable and versatile therapeutic wearable material, more accurate part measurement and improved automation and 3D printing were among the many technologies on display at this year’s Medical Design & Manufacturing (MD&M) East conference, June 12-14, in New York City.
No matter what themed section of the conference one visited, several concepts echoed repeatedly:
- Medical parts continue to get smaller.
- Customized and all-in-one solutions are more in demand than ever.
- Manufacturing equipment continues to get smarter, easier to use and more connected.
Today’s manufacturing environment, medical or otherwise, is “all about machine connectivity [and] feeding shop floor information directly to ERP to manage inventory levels, shipment requirements and things of that nature,” explained Jeff Overwein, solutions engineer for Epicor (Des Plaines, IL), a provider of enterprise resource planning software.
In terms of micro and nano processing, medical contract manufacturer Marshall (Minneapolis) recently acquired a Tornos mini Swiss machine “that’s been helping us do our really small parts,” said Sales and Marketing Manager Tom Plantenberg. He showed off a small container holding fragile plastic medical components with two outer diameters—the largest being 12 thousandths—and a point on one side. “Everybody wants smaller parts.”
Automation and Robots
Robotics occupied a significant share of the spotlight, with key players emphasizing unique solutions using current machines as well as touting upcoming launches.
Universal Robots (Odense, Denmark) demonstrated its portfolio of lightweight collaborative robots, or cobots, emphasizing the UR10 alongside the UR3 and UR5 versions. Each can be used as a floor-, ceiling- or wall-mounted unit with a touch of the control screen.
Universal keeps its robots light by using aluminum tubes and cast aluminum where the joints are. The 24-lb UR3 carries about a seven-pound payload, the 40.3-lb UR5 carries 11 lb and the 63-lb UR10 carries 22 lb.
Whether confirming the integrity of new parts or gathering data to reverse-engineer legacy parts, numerous metrology and scanning solutions were on hand at MD&M.
Customers using Alicona’s (Bartlett, IL) systems might measure the roughness and form of a bone screw to gauge how well it connects, said Vice President Helmut Schmidinger, or examine a stripped screw to determine if the problem resulted from a production or user error. Meanwhile, measuring the cutting edge of a tool can be done in 30 seconds.
CT scanning “is the up-and-coming technology as far as nondestructive X-ray testing [for] physical properties of materials,” advised Michael Schlagel Jr., Northeast sales manager for Zeiss Industrial Metrology (Maple Grove, MN). “It’s really coming of age,” particularly with the growing need to assess the internal structures of additively manufactured components.
One of Zeiss’ newer systems is a structured-light 3D scanner. The company also showed off its multisensor coordinate measuring machine (CMM), which “mixes optics and tactile probing to bring a very versatile system to any measurement room.” Instead of simply calibrating a camera and adding a probe, “all of our CMMs are based around tactile probing, and our optical system is offset from a known master probing location, so it gives us more accuracy with our vision system.”