Robotics and Automated Machining Cut Medical Device Tubing Costs

The unique feature of the two laser-cutting machines (programmed identically) is that they can cut all the features of the tube and inspect them in the process.

In the November issue of Medical Design Briefs, MICRO Executive Vice President Steve Santoro wrote about the importance of continually investing in the latest technologies to ensure producing the highest quality medical devices while also reducing costs. 

He said full-service contract manufacturing operations (such as MICRO) must be vertically integrated to handle complex medical device tubing projects. Trimming tube manufacturing costs on high-volume, single-use disposable instruments requires sophisticated equipment with laser cutting technology; efficient production processes and automated work cells.

At MICRO, we achieve vertical integration by combining Swiss turn machining and laser cutting in one advanced machine.  Particularly suited for fabricated tube production, our Citizen L200 CNC machining center combines a Swiss style 7 axis CNC lathe and an integrated 400 W laser cutter. It laser-cuts slots and holes and simultaneously machines differing outside diameters, thus reducing setup time, secondary processing and handling costs.

Most metal tubing projects can benefit from using this CNC lathe/laser-cutting equipment.

“Unlike traditional metal stamping, the new equipment uses long-length drawn metal tubing with automatic feeding, cut-off and part ejection,” Santoro said. Several operations can take place simultaneously, shortening setup and cycle times, and thus reduce costs.

“Automated work cells designed to cut features and holes into stainless steel tubing while inspecting in-line can improve quality and lower overall manufacturing costs,” he said.  “A complete work cell might feature a robotic arm sandwiched between two identical 4-axis laser cutters.  When the system is running, the robot simultaneously loads and unloads parts, alternating between the two laser-cutting machines.” 

A simple programming change replaces costly tooling and setup conversions. The system only requires an operator to place 2 tray-like totes (with unprocessed tubes) in front of the robotic arm—one tote for each laser cutting machine.

This automated system at MICRO requires an operator only for placing two tray-like totes of unprocessed tubes in front of the robotic arm – one tote for each laser cutting machine – and can run unattended for approximately 5 hours. It integrates two identically programmed laser- cutting machines, each with a two-camera vision system, so it can cut all tube features and inspect them in the process.

Read the full article in Medical Design Briefs here.