The medical industry is evolving at a rapid rate. Every day, there is a constant challenge to design medical equipment that is complex and technologically challenging.
Medical devices are capable of addressing issues that were unimaginable a few years back. In the current era, we see a new dawn of medical innovations where traditional methods give way to new approaches.
As device manufacturers pay close attention to the consumer electronics industry while evaluating the developments, there is a constant push to develop newer medical equipment that is challenging and technologically complex.
In this age of nanotechnology, miniaturization plays a vital role to create innovative medical equipment that addresses human error, patient safety and clinical needs.
Even though the medical manufacturing industry could cross numerous technological milestones, there are still constraints to meet the increasing demands worldwide.
The graph below shows the percentage of global medical device companies that experienced an increase in sales in 2019.
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What is die casting?
Precision die casting is an automated process of producing large quantities of intricate and complex metal parts. The die casting process is done by injecting molten metal under high pressure into a mold cavity.
For the production of a particular product, a specific die is created. The molten metal is usually heated to its melting point, and pressure of 150 to 1200 bars is used with a filling speed of 540km/hr.
This will force the metal into the die to create the desired part. The entire process of die casting can be divided into four different methods.
- Die preparation
- Ejection and
In the first part, a water-based lubricant is sprayed over the mould cavity. This will help to remove the finished product easily and to maintain the temperature within the desired level.
In the second step, the die gets sealed, and the molten metal passes through the pipes at high pressure of 1,500 to 25,400 psi. The pressure level is maintained until the liquid metal solidifies and forms the shape of the cast.
Once solidification is complete, the solidified metal is removed from the cast. The operator uses grinding, sawing, or other processes to free the cast from runners, flash or sprues.
Factors responsible for the increasing demand for die casted products in the medical industry
The growing trend for an increase in demand for die cast products are due to the following reasons:
- Demand for more personalized and advanced forms of treatment.
- Ageing population.
- Increase in the availability of healthcare.
- Improved efficiency of diecast products.
- Extremely high speed of production.
- Increase in device recalls. This will urge manufacturers to actively engage in testing and equipment validation to improve quality.
Applications of die casting in the medical and healthcare industry
Let us take a closer look at some of the essential applications of die castings in the medical and health care sector.
These are the tools and equipment used by surgeons for performing various surgical tasks. Traditionally machined Aluminium and stainless steel were used due to restrictions from the medical board.
Now times have changed, and a variety of metals are used for die casting medical equipment.
Using surgical equipment made out of Zinc or Aluminium die-casting makes it possible to manufacture highly efficient and long-lasting surgical instruments. Not to mention the sheer amount of cost that can be saved as well.
Several surgical types of equipment can be manufactured using Zinc or Aluminium die casting, such as retractors, forceps, scissors, clamps, files, drills, bone saws etc.
Diagnostics and Therapy
Gone are the days where the patient had to be put under a bulky X-ray device. With the advancement in die casting technology, it is possible to produce compact and efficient diagnostic equipment.
State of the art methods such as double-sided die casting equipment that are effective, and with a high level of sophistication can be developed.
Medical electronic equipment
With innovation in biomedical engineering, the electronic components designed for various biomedical applications are getting increasingly sophisticated.
The electronic equipment is susceptible to radiations and changes in temperatures. If the system overheats beyond a particular level, the chances are high that the internal circuitry will get burned off.
Due care must be taken to not overheat beyond a certain extent or get exposed to radiation.
This is achieved by the use of a high-performance heat sink. With modern die-casting technology, it is possible to integrate high-performance heat sinks within the product design.
Benefits of die casting for medical equipment
If you opt for die casting as your process choice for designing the medical or surgical device, the notable advantages include:
- High volume and cost-effective production
- Tight tolerances achieved as-cast
- Cast housings are incredibly durable
- Completely recyclable
- Value engineering
- Minimal draft angles on internal features
- Less machining is required when compared to other manufacturing methods
- Heat sink can be integrated within the product designs
- Steady quality
- Uniformity for diecast parts
- Complex structures can be cast with ease
- Excellent strength and dimensional stability
- Less assembly is needed
- Casts with thinner walls can be fabricated with light tolerances
- High-speed production
Types of metals used for medical-grade die casting
When it comes to human health, there should be no room for error. The most commonly used metals for medical-grade die casting are Aluminium and Zinc.
Zinc die casting
Die casting with metal zinc can help to design a lot of precision instruments. The galvanized surface helps to ensure that the doctor fully concentrates on the patients.
The metal has a characteristic of toughness and rigidity, providing high mechanical strength. This, along with several surface treatments, helps to make Zinc a practical construction material.
The metal can be cast with extremely high accuracy in almost all possible dimensions. Die casting Zinc also allows various prerequisites for surface treatments such as galvanic coatings.
Uses of Zinc die casting
Zinc die casting helps to produce small reproducible dimensions of less than 0.03mm. The metal can be seen almost everywhere in hospitals and dispensaries.
Some of the medical equipment that use Zinc die casting for manufacture are :
- Hospital beds
- Infusion stands
- Infusion pumps
- Blood pressure monitors
- Artificial respiration devices
- Ionization units
- Air purifiers
- Portable oxygen supplies
- Artificial feeding pumps
- Seat lifts
- Monitoring devices
- Crutches, other aids
- Height-adjustable toilet seats
- Bedside cabinets
Zinc die casting is the best option while manufacturing medical equipment that is constantly in contact with the patient. After every use, the equipment has to be appropriately disinfected without losing its appearance or functionality.
The metal’s high density and capability offer the designers enough freedom to design medical equipment that is patient-friendly.
Another additional feature of the metal is the ability to protect against radiations such as X-rays and retain the equipment’s proper functionality.
Some of the additional advantages of Zinc are
- Fully recyclable
- Protection from magnetic and electrical radiations
- Excellent mechanical material characteristics (ZP0410: tensile strength 300MPa to 340MPa, yield strength (0.2%) 290MPa to 330MPa, e-module 85GPa)
- High economic efficiency through very short cycle times, low melting temperature (380°C to 390°C), minimum draft angles, near-net-shape production, and long mould lives
This metal is another excellent choice for manufacturing high-quality medical equipment. Aluminum has a very high melting point making it a perfect choice for manufacturing medical equipment.
Here is a list of medical equipment that is made out of Aluminum die casting.
- Tubes for diagnostic equipment
- Seat lifts
- Monitoring devices
- Crutches, other aids
Aluminum alloys offer corrosion resistance and better strength to weight ratio, making them desirable for medical device components.
A360 and A380 aluminum is usually used for casting medical devices and equipment.
Some additional benefit of using aluminum includes
- EMI shielding
- High dimensional stability
- Durability for equipment enclosures and housings
- Adherence to tight tolerances
Uses of Aluminium die casting
- Has a higher percentage of silicon
- Excellent for pressure-tight components
- Difficult to cast but has great strengths
- Good thermal conductivity
- Retain the dimensional stability at high temperatures
- Suitable for projects that have cost constraints
The developments in the die casting industry have entirely revolutionized the way medical equipment is manufactured.
Now it is possible to manufacture highly complex and intricate devices that were not possible in the last decade.
Industrial engineers and designers are coming up with newer and better state of the art die casting equipment to roll out medical equipment that saves lives and can diagnose diseases right from the beginning.
In this article, we have covered some of the crucial topics concerning medical die casting. You can use this article as a reference guide to choose the proper die casting manufacturer of your choice.
The article is a part of our comprehensive guide on “Die casting: Process, Equipment, Uses, and More”