Deburring Small Precision Medical Parts and Devices

Most medical components, devices, tools and implants are small, Swiss precision-machined parts, crafted from a wide variety of materials. Mass-finishing systems, large blasting-cabinets, picks, knives, brushes and other deburring tools not only can damage delicate parts, but fail to reach into very small and intricate geometries. They can also dull edges and often alter a part’s geometry altogether. Worse, these tools can wreak havoc on operator’s hands.

This December, Comco exhibited our MicroBlasting systems at the BioMed show in San Jose. Many visitors approached our booth, read our signage and immediately launched into questions when a particular application caught their eye. Of all those eye-catching applications, Precision Deburring elicited the most questions: “Wow, you can deburr with this?” “Even small parts?” “Doesn’t the operator need gloves?” “Is it like sand blasting?” “Is that the nozzle?” It was obvious that even though MicroBlasting has been used in all areas of industry for decades, it still has not penetrated all potential niches in the medical industry where it can benefit the designers who are creating the latest in medical devices and instrumentation.

We heard many stories of operators’ struggles: from clumsily juggling small parts in hands covered by large gloves while trying to manipulate a large nozzle; to forcing oversized brushes into small, intricate areas; to the trials and tribulations of hand-deburring with picks and knives. Each story bore a common thread: deburring small parts with methods other than micro-abrasive blasting is definitely possible, but not always effective, efficient or safe. The perfect finishing of any component, device or instrument is as key to a perfect design as the design itself.

Medical Components Are Unique

Most medical components, devices, tools and implants are small, Swiss precision-machined parts, crafted from a wide variety of materials. Mass-finishing systems, large blasting-cabinets, picks, knives, brushes and other deburring tools not only can damage delicate parts, but fail to reach into very small and intricate geometries. They can also dull edges and often alter a part’s geometry altogether. Worse, these tools can wreak havoc on operator’s hands.

But be aware that no single deburring method works for all parts. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, and MicroBlasting succeeds best when deburring delicate or fragile parts that feature:

  • hard-to-reach areas
  • difficult or intricate part geometries
  • cross-drilled holes
  • precision edges or surfaces
  • Swiss precision-machined parts
  • high value materials 
  • tight dimensional tolerances

MicroBlasting most successfully removes feather, sliver, roll-over or hinged burrs—loose or brittle burrs typically formed in or around holes and features on milled or laser drilled surfaces. These burrs may contaminate a system or damage mating parts.

Where is MicroBlasting not effective? Poisson burr (a.k.a. “Doughnut burr”) removal. These burrs are often caused by dull tools or hasty cutting and tend to flatten and blend into adjacent surfaces.

How Micro-abrasive Blasting Works

Micro-abrasive blasting is a non-contact process and thus, very forgiving. Unlike picks and knives which rely on an operator’s skillset, media from microblasters follow irregular surfaces easily and deburr consistently. 

Micro-abrasive blasting provides a way to pinpoint cleaning, surface texturing, polishing, etching and material removal from hard-to-reach device surfaces. It projects a blast of clean, dry air mixed with abrasive media, delivered through a nozzle selected to suit the application. Due to the nature of this technology, most processing is still manual. While the psi, media mixture and safety measures are automatic, an operator still controls the direction of the blast.

The unique properties of high-energy abrasive particles make microblasting ideal for medical applications. It cuts without heat or vibration and can selectively remove blemishes or coatings without damaging underlying layers or surfaces.

Ideal for finishing critical medical devices from cannulae to medical molds,  microblasters deburr and texture surfaces without causing dimensional changes to a part. The machine’s pinpointed abrasive blast can be as tight or as broad as the application requires, propelling a very fine, dry-abrasive powder mixed with clean, compressed air through nozzles with openings as small as 0.018 to 0.060 inch.        

MicroBlasters’ handpieces are small, similar to a pencil, and thus flexible and easy to manipulate. Nozzles come in various sizes and shapes, including right-angle and extended- reach to fit into difficult internal geometries. And the best part: thanks to the focused spray of micro-abrasive blasting, operators can work with mere thin surgical gloves or completely gloveless. So, micro-abrasive blasting nicely accompanies the dexterity of the human hand and allows for more intuitive movement.

Burr size and type are not the only factors for selecting a deburring method. Micro-abrasive blasting is unique in that it works on a wide range of materials, from nylon to hardened steel; and regardless of material, part geometries stand a greater chance of remaining intact using this method. For example, bone screw threads routinely develop small feather burrs. Micro-abrasive blasting quickly and easily removes these burrs without changing the dimensions or damaging the threads.

Lastly, MicroBlasting is efficient. The system footprint is small and flexible. Newer equipment is portable and self-contained, making it easy to move within a facility and to place in-line with other processes. MicroBlasting requires minimal operator training: system set-up takes 10-15 minutes from the time it arrives on the factory floor, and operator use can begin within minutes.

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What's Contributors' Corner ?

Guest contributors submit their opinions and knowledge about the Medical Design space

Contributors

Ruthann Browning

Ruthann Browning is a 28-year veteran of process equipment and automation. She currently handles Technical Sales in Automation in Comco’s western division and spearheads sales and marketing for...

Steve Schubert

Steve Schubert is VP, Business Development, for Advanced Machine & Engineering in Rockford, Ill. He has been with the company for more than 30 years.
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