Why Metal Finishing Matters in the MedTech Industry

Medical device manufacturers face numerous challenges in their quest to develop the high-quality, top-performing, safe products their specialized client base demands. Sanitation and biocompatibility are paramount for protecting the health of a patient who receives devices such as joint and cardiovascular implants. Surgical instruments must be free of defects to prevent injury and infection — and to meet today’s stringent regulatory requirements.

Metal finishing, the process of altering the surface of a workpiece to enhance its appearance, performance and/or durability, plays a prominent role in most medical device manufacturing operations. Three specific metal finishing techniques used in medical device production are:

1. Electroplating

Electroplating entails the electrodeposition of a metal coating onto the surface of another metal workpiece. Commonly used metals in medical device applications include:

  • Gold Coatings: Gold is known for its excellent biocompatibility — it will not create a potentially harmful reaction when exposed to human tissue. A gold coating also can provide the electrical conductivity essential for certain types of medical devices, all while protecting surgical instruments against corrosion and wear. Artery stents and pacemakers are two examples of medical products that can benefit from gold plating.
  • Copper Coatings: Another good conductor of electricity, copper also exhibits the strong thermal properties necessary for many medical devices and provides reliable bacteria resistance. Although copper is not often used for medical implants, it’s bacteria-resistant properties make it desirable for laboratory and medical equipment.
  • Nickel Coatings: Sulfamate nickel can provide an undercoating for gold for medical device manufacturing applications involving electrical contacts. Nickel also resists corrosion and enhanced surface ductility.
  • Electroless Nickel Coatings: It’s also possible to plate nickel onto a medical device without the use of electricity. Electroless nickel plating relies on an autocatalytic reaction to apply the coating and can provide a more uniform surface coverage as well as greater control over thickness.
  • Plating Onto Titanium Substrates: Today’s medical implants are often made from titanium due to this metal’s lightweight, yet durable composition. Although few metal finishing companies have perfected the process of plating onto titanium — and Sharretts Plating Company is one — doing so can enhance the performance and longevity of titanium implants and other products.

2. Surface Preparation

Metal finishers employ various surface preparation techniques for edge-breaking and defect removal on medical devices, such as burnishing and tumbling.

3. Passivation

Passivation entails the application of a light metal oxide coating to enhance the product’s corrosion protection. The implementation of passivation treatments is often used for medical devices made of stainless steel to dissolve iron deposits embedded onto the surface.

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With more than 90 years of metal finishing experience, you can trust the experts at SPC to help you select and execute the right process for your medical device manufacturing applications. Contact us to request a quote today.