Metav 2016 – Medical Area Medical Technology and Production Closely Linked

Author / Editor: Udo Schnell / Lisa Saller, Lisa Saller

Constant readiness for innovation, high-quality in very individual products: the demands on medical technology are great. How firms reconcile these demands with rational production technology is shown in the Medical Area.

Adapting: the effort going into individual adaptation in medical technology (photo: experimental investigation of the primary stability of artificial hip sockets under varying impacts) is great.
Adapting: the effort going into individual adaptation in medical technology (photo: experimental investigation of the primary stability of artificial hip sockets under varying impacts) is great.
(Photo: Universitätsmedizin Rostock)

New technologies, miniaturisation, and a move away from pure product solutions to system and process solutions, integration of the most modern information and communication technologies, personalisation and individualisation: these are trends which determine everyday work in medical technology. Every innovation in medical technology calls for a suitable technology to produce it.

The close ties between medical and production technologies is the theme of the Medical Area at the Metav in Düsseldorf. Medical technology is increasingly becoming a vigorously growing customer segment making the greatest demands on quality, safety and reliability. This requires processing technologies which deliver precision and perfection in each phase of production, independently of whether the product is a one-off or a series product.

With regard to the demands, medical technology shares many common denominators with the aerospace industry: there is growing need for tools, for example, for machining very difficult and expensive materials. "In an aeroplane, a large portion of the machining work is drilling," affirms Lothar Horn, CEO of the Hartmetall-Werkzeugfabrik Paul Horn GmbH, Tübingen. He continues: "In comparison, medical technology firms do substantially more turning and milling." In terms of value, this Tübingen firm makes around 50 % of its turnover from the auto industry and 15 % from medical technology. Particularly because of the rising demand worldwide for implants and prostheses, this market has been growing by around 5 % per annum in the machining area since about 1995, says Horn, chairman of the VDMA specialist group Precision Tools.

A speciality of Horn’s firm is developing tailor-made tools to customers’ orders. Horn says, "For one customer, who attaches great importance to high productivity, we developed a special milling tool for artificial hip joints. Here we extended our three-cutting-edge system to form a six-cutting-edge tool which raised productivity by 30 %." Process improvements of this magnitude, however, apparently generally only succeed in close collaboration with the customer.

It is therefore very seldom that tools for medical technology are taken from the catalogue. "Almost always, we have to adapt the products to the application in order to maintain our position in the domestic market with ‘German engineering artistry’", Horn explains. "But those who succeed in doing this can maintain their position worldwide." He supports this claim with an experience of the Far Eastern kind: one Horn customer in the Black Forest, for example, succeeded in regaining a production order lost to China by raising his productivity: now he is producing almost 500 millions bone screws per annum at a lower price than the Chinese. The secret of success lies in a precise matching of machine, tool-holder and tool, leading to considerable higher quality and yield, we are told.

Very rigorous demands on machining tools are made by all the customers of the Fraisa GmbH in Willich, yet medical technology is a particular challenge for the firm. They produce, for example, tools for the manufacture of surgical instruments in stainless steel (high-alloy austenitic steels such as 1.4301), of implants in titanium or cobalt-chromium (CoCr) alloys, and also of instruments in carbon fibre composite materials (CFRP).

Repetition accuracy and validated processes are required

"Around 30 to 40 % of the demand is for special tools," explains Michael Ohlig, sales and marketing manager. "Particularly important are repetition accuracy, product availability and validated manufacturing processes." Besides that, the sector apparently attaches great importance to high material removal rates and long service life times. Because of frequent follow-up work on the components, surface quality often plays a secondary role. According to Ohlig, "Some manufacturers prefer not to give their implants a high-gloss finish, instead even roughening them deliberately."

One of the current trends in the sector is personalised medical technology. How, for example, can implants be produced individually? Here, too, experts from research and industry will pursue the question as part of the Medical Area programme. The intention is to show examples of how Batch Size 1 becomes possible in medical technology with classical production processes. Personalisation is having an immediate impact on the research laboratory for biomechanics and implant technology (Forbiomit) in the medical department at Rostock University. "The boundary conditions vary greatly from patient to patient," explains Prof. Dr. med. habil. Dipl. Eng. Rainer Bader, leader of the research laboratory, with regard to implants in orthopaedic surgery. "Before the actual production of individual implants, digital simulation should be conducted to test how the implant will stand up to strain."

Subscribe to the newsletter now

Don't Miss out on Our Best Content

By clicking on „Subscribe to Newsletter“ I agree to the processing and use of my data according to the consent form (please expand for details) and accept the Terms of Use. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

Unfold for details of your consent

There is still a lack of standardised human models which cover the individual characteristics of the patients and are thus suitable for personalised medical technology. This is the direction taken by the researchers in Rostock, where, as in industrial applications, so-called hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) simulations are conducted for hip and knee endoprostheses. Here they simulate the interaction (in-the-loop) of a robot (hardware) with a digital multi-body model of the lower extremity.

Combination of constructional and functional working material

For four years, the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Performing Technology (IWU) in Chemnitz and Dresden has been pursuing research and development in the field of medical technology. Besides the generative processes, such as laser beam melting, the focus at the institute is partly on Batch Size 1, but also partly on so-called unconventional material compounds. "These include materials with integrated functional materials," explains institute director Prof. Dr.-Ing. Welf-Guntram Drossel, director of the research area Mechatronics and Functional Lightweight Construction. "We integrate, for example, a shape-memory element into an implant in order to maintain an evenly homogeneous contact pressure on the bone. It adapts autarchically and actively to changes in the conditions and is therefore a combination of a constructional and a functional working material. We have thus brought technology and material into harmony."

At the Datron AG in Mühltal, which develops specially tailored processing centres for dental technicians and dentists, production is exclusively for personalised medical technology. According to Frank Fuchs, product manager Dental CAD/CAM Systems, "The challenge is to develop machines adapted both to various working materials and to dental customers, who generally have no knowledge of programming and machining." Because production installations in the dental field process, for example, plastics, zirconium oxide or titanium, they need individual production processes with different machining tools. A further factor is that the range of applications of existing dental machines has been expanded. Fuchs says, "In the meantime we also have customers who buy a dental machine to produce, for example, bone implants. Here, once again, we encounter completely different materials."

The Areas at the Metav are a chance for targeted customer discussions

One partner of the Medical Area is the VDMA working group Medical Technology. Since its foundation, it has positioned itself as a platform for exploring questions of medical production technology. Jürgen Lindenberg, CEO of the Citizen Machinery Europe GmbH in Esslingen and member of the working group, says, "The new areas at the Metav are a good chance to conduct targeted discussions with customers from the relevant sectors. We want to gain even more insight into the requirements of medical technology and extend our considerable competence in micro-processing for this customer group. Here the Metav provides a good opportunity."

In the region, the Medical Area is supported by the cluster MedizinTechnik.NRW based in Düsseldorf. CEO Dr. Oliver Lehmkühler says, "With the new Medical Area, the Metav unites two central sectors in North Rhine Westphalia: metal processing and medical technology. In this way the high quality of NRW’s technologies and of its products for medicine is underlined. As a partner of the Medical Area, we are glad to be able to provide better visibility for the highly innovative firms from North Rhine Westphalia which are active at this interface."

It is clear that Ulrich Krenzer, CEO of the Mapal Competence Centre VHM, Miller in Altenstadt, is convinced by the new concept: "Medical technology offers enormous potential, but also calls for the development of solutions of its own: in the need to take into account, for example, the adapted geometries and special cutting materials. We are very happy that this sector is represented with its own Area at the Metav 2016," he adds.