Applying Tech: Orthopedics
How are you influencing orthopedic devices?
Director of Quality/Technology, Lowell, Inc.
In 2008, Lowell invested in a sub-micron accuracy PMM from Leitz of Germany (this same equipment is used to calibrate gages at NIST) to add inspection capacity to the existing Brown & Sharpe CMM. However, we soon found inspectors couldn’t keep up with demand in spite of doubling their capacity. I recognized the problem; these two highly sophisticated and very expensive pieces of equipment sat idle while a Lowell associate loaded and unloaded parts into the machines by hand. This down time meant that fewer parts were inspected as both customers and machinists waited for their parts. Clearly this was not the fault of the operator—a human can only work so fast before they tire or start to make mistakes, but what about a robot?
Now, instead of an associate laboriously tending the two machines, a Motoman HP20 robot does the work. We did the entire project ourselves—selecting the robot; programming its operation and interface with the inspection software; and choosing the racking, palletizing, and barrier systems that allow the robot to work safely. The robot runs virtually 24/7, freeing the operator to perform higher level tasks such as creating test programs and conducting data analysis. In addition, throughput increased dramatically. Our investment in our Motoman robot is part of our automation strategy here at Lowell—not to reduce the number of employees, but to allow our associates to perform higher level tasks
Director of Technology, Omnetics Connector Corporation
Market Segment Leader, Medical and Consumer Products, Polycarbonates, Bayer MaterialScience LLC
OrthoSensor needed to select a thermoplastic for the device. Criteria for the device included biocompatibility, superior strength, and support from the supplying company. Bayer MaterialScience LLC’s Makrolon Rx1851 polycarbonate was chosen. This medical grade meets FDA and ISO 10993-1 biocompatibility requirements for a wide range of medical applications. It has excellent strength and toughness, which helps protect the electronic components of the device. The advanced formulation of Rx1851 polycarbonate ensures flexibility to incorporate intricate design features and easy moldability. Makrolon Rx1851 can be colored both as a transparent tint or an opaque color. For the Knee Balancer, the ability to be colored is important, because different colors signify specific device sizes.
Director of Technology Development, Nano Surfaces Division, Bruker Corp.
Bruker’s three-dimensional microscopes using specialized interferometric objectives provide the most rapid and accurate surface quality control of any technique. Surface roughness can be measured in seconds with sub-nm repeatability and accuracy over fields of view of many square millimeters. This allows large areal coverage of samples to quantify microscale finish, radius of curvature variations, scratches, and other defects. All of these factors can affect the tribological behavior of implants and must be tightly controlled.
Stage automation to handle trays of parts, simplified operator interfaces, and integrated part-scanning capabilities allow easy integration into production lines for continual process feedback and operator-independent results. Such systems are employed in most major manufacturing lines and are a critical element to maximizing implant lifetime for a wide variety of implants, including hip balls and cups, knees, elbows, and spinal implants.