If you will take a look around, you will find products that have undergone precision machining. In order to function, product components must be machined precisely from the engine of your car to the case of your smartphone. Manufacturers are making the effort to require tight tolerances and to remove any variations so that all parts and components of their products are identical in design, shape and measurements.
Importance of precision in the production of medical devices
In the medical industry, precision machining is very critical particularly with the increased demand for miniaturized medical instruments and devices for surgery and implant procedures. As medical products go from small to miniature, high precision becomes a requirement. Components tolerances have been reduced from the traditional +/- hundreds of inch to thousandths and ten thousandths of an inch. It goes with saying that precision is very significant because in the medical industry, a slight deviation in measurement can result into permanent disability or life being lost. If the components do not mate accurately, the results can be quite serious. Due to increasing demand for precision, different technologies have been developed to achieve consistent geometry with very minimal variability for a trouble free assembly process. Example of technology that is implemented by precision machining includes:
- High speed CNC milling – CNC means computer numerical control that is integrated to different rotating cutting tools to remove material from the workpiece according to the specifications of the customer. The developments of ultra-high speed spindles RPM’s that are in excess of 40,000 are now possible. Precise tolerances of +/- .0002 of an inch on small parts are achievable. However, the efficiency of precision machining also depends on the complexity of the part including the number of cutting tools and fixture change increases. The initial investment in CNC milling is quite high but it is an indispensable tool for the medical industry.
- EDM or electrical discharge machining – is a precise and flexible machining process that is widely used to create intricate geometries on precision dies, molds and fixtures for tool making. EDM makes use of an electrical arc to erode the workpiece without the actual application of cutting force. Precision machining makes use of EDM for miniaturized components where the amount of metal that has to be removed is relatively small.
- Precision metal stamping – is a process of metal stamping to ensure close tolerance parts from small, miniature and micro-sized. Precision machining prefers this method for low volume parts with a great deal of complexity because of the competitively lower price per part. Precision metal stamping is more cost effective than machining because it can be applied to any kind of metal including exotic metals and precious alloys.
There are other precision machining technologies available but the choice depends on several factors like application, volume, expected life of the product and of course, cost. There is precision machining technology that is more applicable to low volume products and not suggested for mass production of parts. If the volume cannot be determined, cost would be a big factor to take into account.