micro parts to market... faster


3/26/13   Donna Bibber will be speaking about micro molding thin walled devices at the SME Micro Mfg Conference on April 17, 2013 at 11:30am, followed up with a panel discussion at 1pm. This conference will be at the Hilton Minneapolis at 1001 Marquette Avenue South in Minneapolis, MN. This conference is all about Going Beyond Micro. It is a forum where you can explore and share solutions in medical device manufacturing. The focus is on manufacturing processes and technologies, including :

• New manufacturing technologies, processes, tools and validation
• Outsourcing strategies for both finished goods manufacturers and contract manufacturers
• Understanding strategies for overcoming innovation challenges
• Strategies for improvement within the regulatory environment
• Inspection technology, repeatability and validation

Local hotels are booking up fast, so don’t hesitate to reserve your room today and register for this amazing conference!

You can register for the conference here.


3/19/13   How small can you go with tooling when it comes to micro tooling? When thinking about the design of a tool you need to ask yourself “What does the tool have to look like in order to make the part?”








In micro machining we can make an End Mill as small as 0.0001”! It is extremely challenging to see these features with the naked eye and be able to machine micro parts with these very tiny end mills. These tiny end mills can break, just like any other end mill, so there is a process developed to resist breaking the end mills using certain materials. Once we get the process to work on certain materials for 0.001”, we push the process to decrease the size without breakage. Over the past few years we have been able to develop the methods to machine extremely small features.
Ejector pins as small as 0.004” – uses a polymer to eject off of the mold itself to be as small as a hair-size. This is a moving part, pushing a part out every 10 seconds, so they do tend to wear. We have been able to make this size last 3.5 years before they break.
Cavities as small as 0.007”
Core pins as small as 0.0029”
Gates as small as 0.002” – a gate is where the polymer would enter through the mold
Wall thicknesses as thin as 0.0015”

PEEK (polyetheretherketone) material is a very popular material for micro machining and also for implant use because it is a strong material and bio-compatible. To see examples of what we have machined using micro tools please visit our Micro Services Page.



3/5/13     Of the products that we have in micro machining, some are machined and some are molded using a micro-machined tool. There is a life cycle curve for these processes. Right at the beginning of this lifecycle curve we have tens of thousands of parts in the R&D stage; in the next cycle the Growth Stage we have millions of parts and in the last cycle the Mature Product we have millions of millions of parts.
Some of the parts in the R&D phase include:
• catheter tips
• sub-assemblies
• stents
• resorbable polymer implants – a resorbable polymer is PLA (polylactic acid). That polymer would be introduced/implanted into the body and turned into carbon dioxide & water and it would be flushed from the system        when it has done its job. That material is between $3,000 and $22,000 a pound so it is good to use it in the micro fashion because you don’t use a lot of material.
• micro filtration – filters very small particles in a liquid form or a powder form.
• fuel cells
• ophthalmic implants – lenses, behind the eye, plug that is implanted in the tear duct, hydrogel and collagen type products
• anchors – that would be used to secure devices that go with catheters or introduced via endoscope
• suture devices
• implantable chips
Some of the parts in the Growth Phase include:
• sensors
• surgical tools
• gaskets
• portable electronics
• ink-jet components – with very small inkjet orifices to deposit the ink
• pump components
• fiber optics
• LED lenses
• hearing aids
• batteries
• microfluidics
• diagnostics
• drug delivery
Some of the parts in the Mature Phase (cost reduction mode) include:
• gears
• bobbins
• biopsy jaws
• surgical instruments

Some of the features in part sizes we can achieve in micro-machined in micro-molded components:
• wall thicknesses down 0.001” – A human hair is 0.004”. We can create geometry in both steel or polymer that is ¼ of a hair size thickness. There are challenges involved with this, but we are very comfortable in the   0.002”-0.003” wall thickness range.
• surface features to 0.0001”
• tip radius for sharp points < 0.0007” – for needles and needle arrays. To puncture skin a needle requires a sharp tip radius less than 0.001”
• 500+ parts per plastic pellet – this is the smallest molded component we have made, making sure we use as much of the pellet as possible to save waste and money