Recognising the importance of innovation and speed to market as key differentiators for medical device OEMs, global industrial group Sandvik has recently invested in rapid prototyping and rapid production capabilities at their European Centre of Excellence in Rotherham, UK.
“Our focus is always on being a true strategic partner to medical technology companies, helping them secure a real competitive advantage,” explained John Reynolds, Special Projects Manager at Sandvik. “This means supporting their development process and helping them manufacture excellent products while continually shortening the time it takes to bring the products to market.”
“We are creating an area dedicated to rapid production and prototyping in our new UK-based Centre of Excellence for the development and manufacture of orthopaedic implants, instruments and medical material” Reynolds stated.
Direct Metal Laser Sintering
The centre provides a comprehensive range of services, making it possible to explore designs and trial prototypes quickly and easily, as well as manufacture small numbers of products in a short timeframe. Facilities include the recently acquired Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) machine, a Thermojet wax printer and an Objet resin printer.
Reynolds continued, “Prototyping is an important stage in the creation of a new device, since it provides the opportunity to make any necessary adjustments prior to full production. Many medical device OEMs may also require very small production runs; this may be because only ten or 20 units of particular large, high value implants are required in a year or development parts are required for inspection and analysis.”
A knowledge of powder metallurgy
Using the DMLS machine allows designers to develop working prototypes cost-effectively and so bring new innovations to market far more quickly than was previously possible. Sandvik is also leveraging its long experience within the powder metallurgy (PM) industry to exploit the powder-based technique used by the DMLS machine to manufacture almost any design, thereby removing limitations previously imposed on design teams.
Reynolds explained, “In contrast to other rapid prototyping processes, the DMLS machine produces a working model time and cost efficiently. This means our customers can present a working model to their customers in a fraction of the time it would take with conventional manufacturing techniques and bring the final design to market far quicker.”
“Looking ahead we will continue to develop new processes and procedures, exploiting both our long standing commitment to R&D and materials expertise. Indeed, Sandvik invests 3% of the Group’s total sales in R&D” concluded Reynolds.