Specialty metals have long played a vital role in the medical industry, particularly in medical device manufacturing. From the most basic diagnostic guide wires to the most advanced body implants, these metals are unstoppable in proving themselves medically useful.
Stainless SteelStainless Steel
Through the years, stainless steel has been the most widely used metal in the medical device industry. It is obviously the alloy of choice for most design engineers, who know all of its benefits, including corrosion resistance, variety of forms and finishes, and low cost.
The highly versatile titanium is another top choice of medical manufacturers. Like stainless steel, it is corrosion-resistant and causes less negative reactions when connected to human bone, compared to other metals. The process that allows natural bone and tissue to fully attach to a titanium implant is known as osseointegration. It is a staple in the medical manufacturing business as it is used to make a huge variety of products, from neurostimulation instruments to orthopedic rods, pins and plates, and of course, heart implants.
Medical device manufacturers have shown considerable and interest in niobium in the last few years. Because of the metal’s inertness, it is usually used to make pacemakers and others related devices. Niobium treated with sodium hydroide is a suitable alternative for internal medical applications, as the process allows the metal to form a porous layer which aids osseointegration.
Tantalum has been used for more than 40 years in the medical device industry, expecially in making diagnostic marker bands and as a catheter plastic compounding additive. It is also widely preferred for making implants and other shaped-wire applications because it is corrosion-resistant and highly ductile. It also has excellent dielectric properties and is easy to weld.
Nitinol is an alloy made of nickel and titanium (around 51% Ni) and can be superelastic when under applied stress. Shape memory gives the metal the ability to return to its original shape when heated over its transformation temperature. This extraordinary property of nitinol, on top of its being chemically and physiologically compatible with the human body, makes it a favorite among medical device engineers and designers.
Finally, in recent years, the medical industry appears to have changed its perspective on copper, even conducting more and more research into the metal and its alloys. Copper used to be off limits for most medical uses because of its thrombogenic (bleeding) risks, but it has developed a new following in the device community. What’s responsible for this change is the fact that with proper shielding, the metal can be an effective transmitter of signals to small implants and diagnostic tools. Companies that make copper products for medical uses generally have their own equipment for metal wire/strip shielding, so as to ensure excellent quality and prevention of cross-contamination.