This issue of contains a number of articles related to machining’s role in manufacturing medical devices. If you’re wondering if the majority of our readers are involved in medical manufacturing, the answer is no. Our readers do, however, struggle with complex parts involving difficult materials like the makers of medical components. That’s why I encourage you to read about how these shops have improved on the production of their parts. Although you may not be making orthopedic or surgical components, you will likely find ideas here that are relevant to your own critical workpieces.
For example, one of the shops we profile this month creatively applies workholding and cutting tool technologies to enable long stretches of unattended machining. Another recently adopted atypical, bar-fed machine tools to produce complete parts in one cycle. Yet another rethought its software approach so that it could speed CAM programming and job quotation time to deliver parts to its customers quicker.
These shops justify the investment in high-tech equipment knowing payback will come in the form of improved quality, performance and throughput, not to mention overall capability. Another by-product of a high-tech mindset is increased shop flexibility and nimble responsiveness to changing customer needs.
These are also shops that stay in close communication with their customers, a connection that helps them adapt to changing part designs and delivery schedules. They become aware of new materials their customers may soon adopt for devices, allowing them to prepare a machining game plan. One example in medical circles is PEEK polymer, which is increasingly used in medical devices and requires a different machining approach than metals. (PEEK machining is also covered in this issue.)
Finally, these shops realize they must maintain clean, organized and well-lit facilities. This discipline offers a number of benefits, including improved workplace safety. Another is that it creates an environment that is welcoming for existing employees and alluring to potential recruits. A tidy, orderly workplace reduces waste on a number of fronts. The challenging machining work performed in medical shops is an example of the kind of work that is relatively difficult to outsource to offshore competition. Shops performing similarly complex work for other industries are well-served to become even more effective at it, taking note of those shops that have become specialists at serving the medical market.