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Horn Blog

Tools for medical technology

August 2021
Author: paulhorn
Company: Hartmetall-Werkzeugfabrik Paul Horn GmbH
Tools for medical  technology

Around 200 bones make up the human skeleton, which is held together and moved by over 600 muscles and numerous tendons. The organs, muscles, bones, vessels and nerves form a functioning, perfectly matched, complete system. With 100,000 beats per day, the heart pumps more than 6,000 litres of blood around the body. But what happens when the human body no longer works properly or the skeleton becomes damaged? This is where the challenges of medical technology begin. The dynamic development of the sector is unstoppable. The requirements of manufacturers and therefore their suppliers are increasing constantly: everything always has to be smaller, less invasive, more precise, safer and better for use in the body. These are just a few of the demands that manufacturers of medical devices have to confront on a daily basis.

As a tool manufacturer, HORN is able to meet these challenges and to constantly work on developing new tool solutions and production strategies for medical technology – from micro end mills for manufacturing sensitive titanium spinal column implants right through to grooving tools for the aluminium pump housing of a ventilator. HORN is always building on its expertise in tool technologies in the medical sector.

Our whirling technology is proof of this know-how. Key advantages of the whirling process include high cutting rates, long threads with high surface quality, deep thread profiles, short chips, multi-threads and minimal tool loads. However, despite having these benefits, the user has to face various technical challenges. One important aspect is the materials used for bone screws. The cutting edges of the whirling inserts are subjected to extremely high loads when machining titanium, stainless steels and other superalloys. To counteract edge wear while maintaining the required high machining volume and short processing time, tool manufacturers need to constantly optimise the tools and processes used and develop them further.

With JET Whirling, HORN presents a whirling system with internal coolant supply. By cooling the cutting edges directly, this system enables long tool life to be achieved. What’s more, in conjunction with the stable whirling unit, the system achieves better surface quality on the workpiece and reduces the risk of chip build-up between the inserts. Surface quality plays a major role in the production of bone screws. Every groove or ridge can be a breeding ground for germs.

Broaching an internal hexagon socket

“Manufacturing a hexagon in titanium is relatively easy using profile broaching. Broaching in series production in cobalt-chromium, however, is virtually impossible due to its high strength and the significant tool wear,” says a German user from the medical technology sector. Due to this issue, HORN engineers proposed producing the hexagon socket using the shaping method. The method offers high precision and high process reliability as the cutting geometry and the carbide substrate can be easily adapted to the material being machined. The first tests quickly discovered the required solution. “The shaping tool makes it possible to produce precise fits and the surface quality is very good,” says the user.

Implant 4.0

Digitalisation has also been playing an increasingly important role with implants in recent years. You can already find intelligent implants that can be controlled via an app in pacemakers or valves for regulating intracranial pressure. We can only speculate about what the future will bring but virtually every part of the body could be controlled using an intelligent implant in the event of a dysfunction: bladder, epilepsy and brain stimulators, retina implants, dispensing systems, and artificial pancreases – the list gets longer the more scientists, doctors and engineers you ask.

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