Frequently Asked Questions About Micromolding

1) How important do you feel micro molding is to the medical device industry now and do you see the process growing in popularity among manufacturers in the near future?
A. Micro molding is playing a vital role and has the potential to change the landscape of medical devices used in minimally invasive surgery. The technology is still in its infancy, and therefore can be called a ‘disruptive’ technology. Medical device designers and manufacturers are just beginning to realize that there is a need for this technology and are looking to fill this technology gap. It will change the way designers and buyers look at developing new products and re-designing existing products. Micro molding coupled with the trend toward miniaturization of medical device and less invasive procedures will provide ample opportunity to develop new and innovative products.
2) Is there less room for error when manufacturing parts this small?
A. Yes, there is little room for error with micro molding. There is always an element of risk with any new technology. With that comes the fear of the unknown and worst of all failure. It is not uncommon for buyers to believe that micro molding can’t be done. Since this technology is its infancy buyers have little or no experience in micro molding and cannot determine if a supplier can provide a component(s) to specifications. A previous experience in micro molding may have resulted in failure exacerbating their tolerance for risk. Nearly every micro molding project is custom and a test to show buyers that it can be done. A failure made on the first component with a new customer diminishes the chances of them trying other components.
3) How does micro molding reduce the number of start-up problems?
A. Medical devices used for minimally invasive surgery (MIS) are typically small, complex multi-component assemblies’ manufactured using highly skilled labor. Many of these devices are a compilation of several machined components assembled under a microscope and using qualitative secondary manufacturing operations such as bonding and welding. Many companies struggle with the complexity of assembling these miniature devices into a finished product, and obtaining an acceptable yield can be a long and challenging battle because of the large variability lot to lot. Companies may spend years developing and perfecting products that allow them to ensure compliance, quality, reduced risk, lower costs and profitability.

Micro molding can permit these machined components to be replaced, dissimilar components to be combined or insert molded and bonding and welding to be eliminated. These changes can reduce the number of components, overall size, assembly complexity and times required to start-up and assemble the device and obtain an acceptable production yield.
4) How do they convert open surgical procedures to minimally invasive procedures?
A. Advances in micro molding technology have given designers greater flexibility to design smaller, more complex devices for minimally invasive surgery while not compromising manufacturability, thereby enhancing their ability to create new and more innovative products. These changes in technology will potentially increase the growth of the MIS market by allowing conventional medical devices used for open surgical procedures to be converted to MIS procedures. The ability to design smaller more complex devices will allow designers the freedom to design small medical devices and surgeons’ greater freedom to manipulate the devices throughout the body producing fewer traumas for patients.
5) How does micro molding eliminate dependency on microscopes for assembly?
A. I noted that due to the size of the components many devices are assembled under a microscope and use qualitative manufacturing operations such as bonding and welding. Micro molding overcomes the limitations of established technologies, facilitating smaller components, incorporating complex features, reducing the number of components, and eliminating archaic processes which results in reducing the number of processes performed under the microscope.

6) Why do you say that products reduce expensive machined components?
A. Previously, the only option to fabricate small, complex miniature components was machining. As a result, sourcing low to moderate volume micro components has been a costly challenge for manufacturers. Today, advances in micro molding technology and polymer science permit complex machined components to be injection molded in metal, plastic or plastic with metal or ceramic filler with equal or better precision and repeatability. The amount of time it takes to mold a component is a fraction of what it would take to machine a component. For instance it might take 3-5 minutes to machine a component. To micro mold an equivalent component may only take 5 to 15 seconds.
7) What kind of secondary operations does the process reduce or eliminate and how so?
A. Medical devices for minimally invasive surgery are typically fabricated using bonding (gluing) or welding. Micro molding can permit machined components to be replaced, dissimilar components to be combined or insert molded and bonding and welding to be eliminated. These changes can reduce the number of secondary operations performed.
8) How does the process decrease manufacturing cycle time?
A. Micro molding can permit machined components to be replaced, dissimilar components to be combined or insert molded and bonding and welding to be eliminated. Eliminating bonding welding of components reduces the time required to assemble the device.

Contact Mikrotech to learn more about the innovative ways micro manufacturing technology can be incorporated into your new or existing MIS device.

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Mikrotech, LLC
9900 58th Place
Kenosha, WI

Tel 262.577.0232