The medical industry, including the medical instrument, medical device, and especially the medical implant sectors, is growing at an exceptional rate. As innovations are made and introduced to the market rapidly, the field continues to grow and evolve.
At the same time, the medical industry as a whole — plus manufacturers, care providers, and the public — is challenged by rising healthcare costs as prices rise nearly as quickly as technologies adapt. This puts medical instrument and medical device manufacturers in a uniquely challenging position as they must balance quality — a non-negotiable factor in the health field — with efficiency, and speed with precision.
For example, medical devices are now being designed to be smaller and more discreet. Smaller components, some of which have super-tight tolerances on the micron level, can be difficult to manufacture, so companies often turn to machining to have these components produced. Machining, though, can be very costly and time consuming.
The Benefits of Metal Stamping for Medical Devices
Metal stamping, often overlooked in favor of machining when it comes to small and complex parts, has seen its own share of technological advances over the years. Today, metal stampers can stamp very small, very complex shapes to the exact specifications required by the medical industry.
In fact, metal stamped components are already in use in a range of medical instruments, devices, and implant components. Here is just a small sampling:
Jaw housings are crucial components of the devices used during laparoscopic surgery. Small and perfectly cylindrical, jaw housings are traditionally machined from a metal tube. In fact, it used to be widely believed that this was the only way to manufacture them — that metal stamping could not physically produce them. However, jaw housings can be stamped to tolerances well within those required by the health care industry and are generally half as expensive as machined ones.
Various medical devices are designed for permanent implantation into the human body, including drug pumps, cochlear devices, pacemakers, and internal defibrillators. These products require enclosures — almost exclusively made of titanium — to protect them from the human body, which can reject foreign objects. Today, with the proper tool design considerations, titanium can be stamped as easily as steel.
Then there are implantable components, encompassing internal components of implantable devices such as battery cases and freestanding medical components such as brackets, clips, and clamps. Implantable components are incredibly small — smaller than a human fingernail or scalpel tip. With the advent of cutting-edge microstamping equipment and techniques, metal stampers can now expediently and cost-effectively manufacture these tiny components.
These are just a few examples of the complex medical-grade components that metal stampers can now offer to medical device manufacturers and others operating in the health care field. In the continual balancing act between quality and cost, it’s time to explore metal stamping as a viable production process.
Ready to take a deeper look into the design of precision metal stamped medical device components? Download our newest eBook to learn more about design considerations, prototyping utilization, materials, and more criteria for metal stamped medical components.
The dedicated team at Keats Manufacturing Co. has been crafting stamped metal parts since 1958. Over the past few decades, we’ve seen a number of unique projects and individual parts come through our facility. While many decisions — from design details to custom tooling — influence these parts’ performance, one of the first choices made in the manufacturing process is always the most critical: material.
Common Materials, Uncommon Quality
Every metal comes with its own benefits and weaknesses, and these properties lend each material to different ideal uses. Achieving the best results for a stamping project is always the result of carefully researching and choosing a part’s optimal material fit.
At Keats Manufacturing Co., we pride ourselves on offering the highest quality products, from common steel components to custom crafted specialized alloy parts. Here are our top five material choices for custom stamping projects.
Copper offers some of the best available conductivity (100%), behind only silver and gold in its performance. Copper is also known for its corrosion resistance to industrial atmospheres, water, non-oxidizing acids, alkalis, and neutral saline solutions. While it doesn’t react with water, copper gradually forms a brownish-black oxide when exposed to atmospheric oxygen. Unlike rust, this oxide will actually protect the copper underneath from further corrosion.
Copper is very malleable, ductile, and responsive to precision tooling. For automotive and electrical stamped part applications, it is best used at 0.010” – 0.050” thickness.
Copper alloys commonly used at Keats are: C102, C110, C122, C194 & C197.
Our copper part highlights include reel to reel terminals, loose terminals, conductive lead frames, grids, wire forms, clips, antennas, and prototype and short-run parts. Our custom metal stamping portfolio also includes beryllium copper springs for use in hearing aid applications.
A specialized alloy of copper, phosphor bronze contains up to 10% tin and up to 1% phosphorous, which provides deoxidizing during melting. While phosphor bronze lacks copper’s extreme conductivity (only 15%), it allows for electrical connections to devices at ultra-low temperatures due to its fair electrical performance combined with very low thermal conduction.
Phosphor Bronze is also insensitive to stress corrosion cracking and offers good corrosion resistance to sea water and industrial atmospheres. Known for its toughness, strength, and low coefficient of friction, phosphor bronze is a popular choice for springs, bolts, and heavy fatigue applications. It is best used at 0.008” – 0.050” thickness for automotive and electrical applications.
Phosphor Bronze alloys commonly used at Keats are: C510, C511, C519 & C521.
Our bronze stamping portfolio includes reel to reel terminals, contacts, loose terminals, conductive lead frames, grids, and prototype and short-run parts.
Often the most cost effective choice for electrical applications because of its lower price point than pure copper, brass is known for its malleability, hardness, and resistance to corrosion, not to mention its pleasing appearance. Made by blending copper and zinc, it offers higher malleability than bronze or zinc alone. Nearly 90% of its alloys are, in fact, a result of these materials being recycled!
Brass offers good resistance to fresh water, neutral or alkaline saline solution, organic compounds, and standard atmospheres at sea, on land, and in manufacturing. Adding aluminum to a brass alloy can strengthen its given corrosion resistance, while adding lead can enhance its machinability.
With a solid conductivity of 28%, brass is common in automotive and electrical applications at thicknesses up to 0.050”.
Brass alloys commonly used at Keats are: C210, C220, C230, C260, C268 & C272.
Our brass part highlights include reel to reel terminals and contacts, loose terminals, contacts, conductive lead frames, grids, brush guards and holders, and prototype and short-run parts.
An extremely popular material choice, aluminum is likely best known for its exceptional strength-to-weight ratio, making it ideal for strong, lightweight parts, both on its own and in combination with other metals.
Aluminum is also known for its corrosion resistance — it is tolerant to moisture and most chemicals — as well as its low density. The metal offers 61% conductivity and is capable of thermal and electrical superconductivity, as well.
Soft, durable, lightweight, ductile, and malleable, aluminum is popular for automotive and mechanical components at thicknesses ranging from 0.012” to 0.120”.
Aluminum alloys commonly used at Keats are: 3003, 1100, 5056, 5052 & 5154.
Our aluminum part highlights include clips, clamps and flat springs, brackets, latches, covers, wire forms, antennas, and prototype and short-run parts.
Annealed, cold-rolled, stainless — there are countless steel alloys designed to suit any industry. A classic combination of iron with carbon and any number of other elements, steel is created by reducing the carbon in iron ore and replacing it with materials to alter traits such as strength, conductivity, and corrosion resistance. In addition, heat treating processes such as annealing, quenching, and tempering can alter the material and its end performance.
Steel is typically resistant to corrosion with a wide conductivity range (up to 15%) and great formability and durability. A low cost option, it presents good baseline tensile and yield strength. However, all of these properties can vary greatly, offering a wide array of choices to create the perfect fit for a particular project. Annealed steel, for example, is far more ductile and fracture-resistant than its counterpart prior to heat treatment, and G1050 is an alloy specifically created for versatility and machinability in engineering applications.
Material Guidance with Keats Manufacturing Co.
With over 50 years of excellence in custom fabrication and small metal parts, the Keats Manufacturing Co. team knows a thing or two about material choices and manufacturing.
As applications throughout industries become increasingly specialized, it is more important than ever to find custom materials for unique project requirements. The range of materials available for engineers and MROs are truly varied, and includes a number of unique materials, such as chromel, alumel and constantan.
Chromel, alumel and constantan contain unique material properties or characteristics that are necessary to ensuring the success of certain applications. However, these particular materials are incredibly difficult to work with, so there are few manufacturers who have the expertise or ability to manufacture parts using these metals.
Chromel: Chromel is an alloy of an estimated 90% nickel and 10% chromium. It is used in the fabrication of the positive conductors of ANSI Type E and Type K thermocouples, devices for measuring temperature consisting of two different conductors.
This alloy can withstand a wide range of temperatures (-452°C up to 1100°C) in oxidizing environments. It is a proprietary trademark of Concept Alloys, Inc., a manufacturer of thermocouple wire and other high performance alloys.
Alumel: This magnetic alloy consists of approximately nickel (95%), manganese (2%), aluminum (2%), and silicon (1%), leading to good electrical resistivity and thermal conductivity. In addition to thermocouples, alumel is used for thermocouple extension wire. In thermocouples, the alloy is used with chromel to fabricate type K thermocouples.
Constantan: This alloy usually consists of 55% copper and 45% nickel. Its greatest advantage is a constant resistivity over a wide spectrum of temperatures. It is also used in the production of thermocouples, along with iron, copper, chromel and alumel.
At Keats Manufacturing Co., we pride ourselves on our dedication to customization, designing and fabricating custom stamping solutions through the use of countless materials, including chromel, alumel and constantan.
We have decades of experience working with these unique, exotic alloys. Thermocouples and thermal processing procedures need to withstand high temperatures. Through our expertise with chromel, alumel, and constantan, we can help design and fabricate thermocouples, gas pressure regulators, and meters that perform efficiently in high heat applications and provide accurate measurements to ensure safety.
One of our customers, Heat Equipment and Technology (HEAT, Inc.), exemplifies the importance of proper manufacturing expertise when working with these alloys. HEAT, Inc. has depended on Keats for precision components for the combustion industry. As these applications demand exposure to high heat, manufacturers need to be able to machine exotic alloys like chromel, alumel, and constantan for successful and safe customized measurements and controls.
You can also find out more about our expertise providing custom solutions for applications across industries by browsing our capabilities. Feel free to contact us with any questions about the unique needs of your next stamping or prototyping project.
At Keats Manufacturing Co., we take great pride in our dedication to our customers, especially as we design and develop stamped components, subassemblies, and other stamped solutions for various applications across a diverse range of industries. Part of that dedication involves making it easier for our customers to cost-effectively and efficiently meet their metal stamping requirements.
To that end, we’ve put together three ways to reduce turnaround time and the costs associated with fulfilling your stamping needs.
1. Use Conventional or Readily Available Materials
Currently the worldwide trend of manufacturing increasingly miniature parts is reaching the limits of the material performance. Smaller parts need to perform just as well as their larger counterparts without adding on to costs. In order to remain competitive in the global marketplace while still meeting these challenges, companies need to maximize the way they use their material.
Engineers often tend to choose an exotic metal or super alloy when faced with a high performance application. However, compensating tolerances in a design and using materials with greater than necessary strength, corrosion, or heat resistance can be very costly to the bottom line of a project.
Exotics metals and high-strength super alloys are expensive for a number of reasons, especially because of economy of scale. Many of these super alloys are not in great demand, and as a result aren’t manufactured all that often. Another factor which can add significantly to costs is the machinability of many of these materials. The harder a metal is, the more difficult it is to machine; which leads to longer cycle times and higher tooling costs.
So when looking for the right materials for your next stamping project, it will be far more cost effective and timely to first choose from materials that are readily available.
2. Use Progressive Die Stamping
The ideal in manufacturing efficiency is to reduce the number of steps required. Progressive die stamping is designed to deliver these types of efficiencies and offer the opportunity for substantial cost savings. By combining basic forming processes with functions that are normally associated with downstream activities, progressive die stamping provides an overall low cost option, especially in large volumes.
3. Utilize Keats Manufacturing’s Design Expertise
Founded in 1958, Keats now has two locations, with over 142 state-of-the-art metal stamping and wire forming machines. Since then, we have built a strong reputation for quality control and enhancement, while still maintaining fair and economical pricing.
Keats’ engineering department possesses years of specialized design experience across a variety of markets and industries, including medical, aerospace and military, among countless others. The engineering team provides valuable design and planning assistance for each project, from inception to production—with the goal of providing the customer with the best part, at the best price.
Learn More in Our New eBook
For much more detail and additional suggestions for saving big and getting your product finished much faster while maintaining high quality, download our new eBook entitled 10 Ways To Reduce Turnaround Time & Cost Of A Metal Stamped Part. With comprehensive detail about a number of factors affecting various stamping processes, the eBook clearly illustrates how to quickly and cost-effectively completely your stamping project. Download your free copy today!
2014 brought new trends, new resources and new websites for Keats Manufacturing Co. Before we look forward to 2015, we’re stepping back to highlight three achievements from the past year that are worth acknowledging.
Choosing a Mil-Spec Supplier: Criteria, Questions & Pitfalls
Becoming a reliable supplier to defense- and military-related firms offers access to valuable contracts and invaluable market share. Whether you’re sourcing parts and assemblies or seeking a subcontractor, it’s important to know what to look for when making your selection.
Designing & Manufacturing Metal Stamped Medical Device Components
The medical device industry is one of the fastest growing business sectors, generating over $110 billion in the United States today. The shift toward smaller, more intricate parts for medical devices has required the traditional metal stamping process to evolve in order to meet the needs of precision stamped components.