Liquidmetal has experience producing many different components used in medical devices. Designers have utilized the precision of the molding process and the outstanding mechanical properties of Liquidmetal to meet the stringent requirements of their products.
Before any material contacting human tissue can be used in a medical device, it must be evaluated to ensure that the chemical make up of the material does not cause damage to cells within the body. Liquidmetal has gone through several biocompatibility tests to confirm it is suitable for surgical instruments.
Liquidmetal has been working with many of the major medical device companies in the United States, with several prototype parts assembled into surgical equipment.
These are the parts at the end of the instrument that are interfacing with human tissue during a surgery. They need to be strong and durable to perform their task and they have intricate features requiring high precision. Examples of these parts are Jaws, Staple Anvils, and Clip Appliers. When used in minimally invasive surgeries, they enter the body through incisions as small as 5mm, so these are powerful parts in a small package.
Designers come to us looking for an alternative method of manufacturing these components to reduce cost. Common methods they want to replace are CNC Machining and Powder Metal Injection Molding (MIM). CNC machining is very costly and time consuming. The MIM process and be inconsistent and many times the need extensive machining to meet specification after molding. The precision of Liquidmetal injection molding can reduce or eliminate costly CNC processes and provide the features you need directly from the mold.
Liquidmetal also has the mechanical properties to meet and exceed the performance of materials that are commonly used today. It is stronger and harder than both Stainless Steel and Titanium, and it has these properties right out of the mold, without heat treating. Liquidmetal also molds with a smooth surface finish, so additional polishing or coatings are not necessary.
Non tissue contacting components within the handle of a device are also good candidate parts for Liquidmetal. Compact strength is needed in a tight package for levers, gears, and rack and pinons. With Liquidmetal, you can mold levers within the contoured geometry of a handle to fit the form of an aesthetically pleasing hand. Gear teeth can be molded directly into a drive mechanism without any complicated machining, and the surface finish is so good, that you can avoid grinding, polishing or coatings to get a nice smooth and predictable function.
Molding with Liquidmetal also allows you to combine multiple parts into one. Let’s say you need a pinion. Rather than making a gear and press fitting a pin into it, you can mold both components together to improve the strength and improve the precision of its concentricity. It’s not uncommon to replace a plastic part either to increase the strength and durability.
Bezels and Housing
Liquidmetal is more durable and cosmetically pleasing than a molded plastic. It can be molded into complex contoured geometries like a plastic, and it cannot be dented. That is a feature of being an amorphous metal. Liquidmetal is also very hard, which is desirable for scratch resistance. It is a non-magnetic alloy, making it suitable for use in an MRI environment.
There is also a big advantage to molding housings that contain electronics and optical components. These housings would be very expensive to machine out of a block of raw material. Liquidmetal can mold all the features in one step with the precision to properly align to mating components. Liquidmetal can also be over-molded with plastic and Silicon for applications that have such requirements.