Northwestern Engineering researchers have developed a 3D printing method to produce customized optical components, 5mm x 5mm diameter, in about 4 hours.
“Until now, we relied heavily on the time-consuming and costly process of polishing lenses,” says Cheng Sun, associate professor of mechanical engineering and whose lab developed the 3D printing process during two years of research. “With 3D printing, now you have the freedom to design and customize a lens quickly.”
Lens creation involves placing layer upon layer of material, which Sun likens to running a film projector.
“Instead of projecting one frame, one image after another, we layer one frame on top of another,” Sun says. “It is like playing a movie in a vertical fashion.”
But when researchers printed the lens, curved layers made of a photo-curable resin created visible stepping.
“The layers on top of each other created surface roughness. The layer thickness is typically 5µm, while the wavelength of visible light is around 0.5µm. This creates an optically rough surface,” Sun says. “That was the bottleneck. The roughness made the lens incapable of clear optics.”
This led Sun’s group to explore making the surface smooth without slowing printing speed. The result: a two-step process of layering and polishing.
The group used grayscale images to create more transitions between steps, then coated the surface with the same photo-curable resin to form a meniscus that smooths the surface.
“I must have tried more than 100 times to get this just right,” says Xiangfan Chen, a Ph.D. candidate in mechanical engineering and lead author on the study.
This is not the first 3D printed high-quality lens. Nanoscribe, a German-based company, has developed a high-precision femto-second 3D printer with 150µm precision, but that process builds a lens point-by-point (see TMD Sept. 2016: https://tinyurl.com/yc8b5q8t.)
“It is a time-consuming process. That is their limitation,” Chen says. “We wanted to make something comparable but faster and with better quality.”
Next, the group will experiment making larger lenses as well as investigating how to integrate the 3D-printed lens with medical devices, such as an endoscope or optical microscope.
Biqin Dong, a post-doctoral fellow focused on biomedical and mechanical engineering, who also worked on the research, envisions these lenses used by doctors in underdeveloped regions for diagnostic imaging or by field scientists as portable microscopes.
The lens also could be fashioned into a customized contact lens for people with distorted corneas caused by keratoconus.
“The contact lens would feature the customized surface, matching it to the shape of the patient’s cornea,” Sun says.
This work was supported by the National Science Foundation under grant EEC-1520734 and DBI-1353952, along with a donation from the Farley Foundation.
Japan’s medical technology business is in its own universe – market entry is difficult, regulatory pathways can take time, and distribution channels are challenging to understand. However, pricing is positive for medical devices and, once established in the market, recurring revenue stability is relatively assured for years to come.
So, is it an opportunity worth exploring or a risk worth ignoring?
Japan remains the world’s 3rd largest medical device market – a $27 billion market, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) data. Approximately half of Japan’s medical device market consists of imports, creating an opportunity for exporters from the U.S. or Europe.
How did this happen for a country that has a reputation for difficult to penetrate and has its own rules? At the end-user channel, Japan is primarily a domestic market for medical products. However, Japanese medical OEMs are actively seeking new products to import into Japan. With global players such as Omron, Hitachi, Olympus, Terumo, Hoya, Nihon Kohden, Shimadzu, and Toray Medical, Japan OEMs are actively seeking new products to complement their portfolios and meet healthcare initiatives outlined by the government.
How do I enter and thrive in the Japanese medical market segment?
Some key observations from our collaboration partners living and working in Japan:
Lock up your regulatory pathway in the U.S. (FDA) and/or Europe (CE). Even better is if you already have FDA clearance and/or a CE mark, as Japanese partners view these regulatory milestones as credibility.Understand your market segmentation
and do some basic research on the Japanese market. You are likely to succeed in Japan if your product has a healthcare value proposition in the U.S. or Europe.
Identify Japanese OEM medical companies that have complementary products that can act as distributors. Many companies are looking to expand and will move into adjacent spaces if you provide them the value proposition and opportunity to do so.
Create a market-entry plan with your Japanese partner. Japanese companies can be aggressive and slow at the same time. It can be confusing, so be patient and continue to communicate as you collaborate.
Let each party do their thing. Build your product with the highest quality (critical to a Japanese OEM), and let your Japanese partner drive market development.
If you do your homework and find the right partner, Japan can be a highly rewarding “planet” worth exploring.
The MedTech Mindset is a monthly column that discusses today’s opportunities in the medical industry. Florence Joffroy-Black is a long-time medtech M&A and marketing expert with significant experience in the medtech industry and is now the CEO of MedWorld Advisors. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Dave Sheppard is a former medical OEM Fortune 500 executive and is now a principal at MedWorld Advisors. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Mazak Corp. Chairman Brian Papke has been inducted into the Northern Kentucky Business Hall of Fame, accepting the award this year at the Metropolitan Club in Covington, Kentucky.
“Our customers are not just customers, they are friends, and the majority of our employees are homegrown,” Papke said. “We have all worked together over the years to create wonderful opportunities for families, the local community, and all of the areas our customers call home.”
Under Papke’s direction, Mazak gives back to its customers and the manufacturing industry through its contributions to the commonwealth’s economic growth and establishment of a model for manufacturing excellence. Papke also oversaw the Kentucky plant as it became an 800,000ft2 campus and significant regional employer.
IIoT platform for Swiss-turn machines
MachineMetrics’ Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) manufacturing analytics platform brings predictive manufacturing analytics and remote machine monitoring to Tsugami/Rem Sales’ Swiss-turn machine platform packages. Collecting data on machine health, production status, and downtime allows users to have improved production visibility, predictive analytics, and service.
“For years we have been working directly with manufacturers to improve manufacturing equipment uptime, overall equipment efficiency (OEE), and productivity with real-time machine monitoring and analytics,” says Bill Bither, CEO, MachineMetrics.
With Tsugami/REM extending this service to its customers via the new partnership, Bither notes that MachineMetrics’ “data science team is working closely with the data to deliver optimized preventative and predictive maintenance specific to Tsugami machines to improve machine uptime.”
Mahr to distribute NanoFocus microscopes
Mahr is offering NanoFocus confocal microscopes using the Mahr product family brand name MarSurf CM. The exclusive cooperation agreement with NanoFocus AG expands Mahr’s product portfolio of tactile and optical measuring stations with high-resolution, confocal 3D surface measuring systems.
MarSurf CM products are used in medical, automotive, materials management, and electrical engineering manufacturers. The optical measuring systems offer high measurement speed, and work independently of the material and without contact for sensitive surfaces.
Machine Tool Distributors
Index Corp.’s distributors include: Technical Equipment Sales representing Index and Traub machines in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana; Marcus Machinery expanding Index representation into W. Virginia; Premier Machine Tool Midwest LLC representing Index in Wisconsin; and Integrated Machinery Solutions representing Index and Traub in Northern Illinois.
Sales and applications specialists for LMT Onsrud USA includeRoger Piekarski, for North and South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, and Minnesota, and, Manitoba Province, Canada; and Carlos Jaramillo, covering New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and Montana, and Alberta and Saskatchewan in Canada.
Programmable micro gripper
The MGR5 series micro gripper, developed to handle small, fragile parts, weighs 30g and is used as an end effector on third-party robots. It includes the company’s Soft-Land feature, programmable force down to 5g, and two independently controlled gripper fingers to pick up asymmetric parts. MGR5 assists in small part assembly, particularly of complicated, high-volume, small products.
The built-in sensor feedback system gives the mechatronic ability to perform a task and verify its quality at the same time, enabling actuators to quality check processes in real time and feedback the results.
The electric grippers incorporate programmable speeds, positions, and forces with data feedback. Independently controlling each jaw allows precise force control, measurement, and positioning.
Horizontal machining center
The GE40H horizontal machining center has a standard ram-type 33.5hp 12,000rpm Big Plus/CAT40 taper spindle, 500mm (19.7”) axis travels (X, Y, Z), and a 4th (B) axis, offering flexibility for small to mid-size parts machining. The GE40H is available with a Fanuc 31iMB control, 400mm pallets, rotary automatic pallet changer, and a 40-tool capacity magazine. It can be used as a stand-alone machine or as multiples in a lean line production environment, maximizing limited floor space, productivity, and output.
Compact waterjet system
The ProtoMAX personal abrasive waterjet system, a compact, self-installed cutting system for prototyping and relatively low-volume cutting, offers the benefits of large abrasive waterjet cutters in a small package.
Delivering 30,000psi cutting power with a 5hp pump, the ProtoMAX precision cuts materials under 2” thick with no heat-affected zone and no change to the material properties.
The waterjet plugs into a 240VAC dryer-style outlet.
The pump and cutting table are on casters for easy relocation. Work material is submerged under water for clean, quiet cutting that won’t disrupt a shared work space.
Cross hole deburring
The COFA-X tooling system – designed for cross holes with an identical or nearly identical diameter crossing each other; bores that merge into one another; and crossing bores with offset centers – removes burrs from interior uneven bore edges. This eliminates secondary burrs, reduces costs, and improves cycle times for operations previously only possible with manual deburring.
The tooling is pre-assembled with spring-loaded blade geometry for front or back cutting. COFA-X tools are customized, built for application-specific projects, and are suitable for bore diameters 4.0mm and larger.
High-speed milling machine
The M8Cube Next high-speed milling machine features brushless, direct drives providing faster acceleration, feed rates up to 866ipm, and shorter cycle times. A 3kW, 40,000rpm, liquid-chilled spindle delivers greater horsepower for heavier machining, as well as the flexibility to mill a variety of materials. HSK-E 25 tool holders offer precision and <1µm runout. Several spindle options are available including a 2kW, 60,000rpm spindle and a heavy-duty 4kW spindle.
With a footprint of 69" x 69", it features a 40" x 28" x 9" (X, Y, Z) work area, allowing for multiple setups, and accommodating Datron’s integrated workholding systems, automation, and rotary axes.
Options include a spray-mist coolant system, integrated 3D probing, and automatic tool changers with up to 30 stations and tool-length sensing.
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