New designs, technologies, and materials in the manufacture of medical devices, appliances, and tools has increased the need for precision workholding devices that can meet stringent product quality standards and increased production capabilities.
“The medical industry presents unique challenges for manufacturing,” says James F. Woods, president of Hainbuch America, North American distributor for Germany’s Hainbuch GmbH. “The combination of requirements – high degrees of precision and surface finish with a wide proliferation of part geometry in sophisticated materials – demand workholding that is not only precise and rigid but allows for efficient and accurate changeover. Because even the newest machines often come equipped with conventional chucks, it is necessary for manufacturers to source higher quality workholding equipment capable of meeting their present and future operational needs.”
Highly specialized medical applications have redefined accuracy and precision. In conventional machining, these have traditionally referred to the ability to hold tight tolerances. Modern requirements are often involved with other factors as well. Components demanding a high finish are typically moved from turning or machining centers to specialized grinding or polishing machines. Today, this is less than practical for many reasons, including the fact that moving workpieces between machines risks inaccurate positioning. Multiple machine operations are also more expensive because of equipment costs, tooling, and the time involved in making the transfers. With precision workholding equipment and high-performance tooling, it is possible to complete first-pass machining and finishing operations in the same setup – an increasingly important flexible workholding consideration, especially for orthopedic devices.
Pete Peterson, national sales manager for Germantown, Wisconsin-based Hainbuch America, explains, “Whatever the application, we emphasize how important it is to partner with a supplier offering quick-change capability for multiple-size clamping heads (collets), combined with the ability to handle both ID and OD machining. We recently assisted a plant producing joint cups that involved multiple machine operations. By reducing their changeover time for various sizes, they maintained high levels of precision while increasing production by more than 40%. This not only resulted in a more streamlined operation, but enabled them to seek additional business.”
The owner of a medium-sized shop that produces bone pins and surgical tooling explains, “When we went over to precision workholding equipment on all our machines, we incurred an expense both in terms of initial outlay as well as training. We knew that it might not be necessary for every job but, by being equipped, we’re prepared for whatever our customers engineer next. It’s also enabled us to bid more work. If you’re going to stay competitive in this business, it’s something that you have to do – the sooner the better.”
The highly competitive nature of medical manufacturing also has redefined the concepts of economics and competitive advantage. This has created a management model that places as great a value on preparedness as it does on meeting present-day challenges, making the flexibility of their workholding system paramount.