Demographic growth, increasing life expectancy and an economic upswing are among the key drivers in the medical technology industry – with accompanying implications for mechanical production.

Advances in the orthopaedic field in particular are enormous; hip and knee prostheses and spinal implants are in demand like never before. Around 180 different types of product are being used in the human body nowadays. Interest in diagnostics and surgical instruments is also growing. Amid this growth, economic production of medical technology products is a key issue.

As the leader of technology in machining and as a partner for virtually all notable manufacturers in the industry, DMG MORI plays a key role in enabling implants and instruments to be machined efficiently and above all to meet the high demands on quality. This comprises the entire material mix from high-strength plastic, stainless steel and titanium. to cobalt-chrome and now degradable magnesium alloys. CNC solutions for six-sided turn-mill machining, five-axis simultaneous milling, ultrasonic technology and high-speed cutting are all included in the portfolio, as well as additive manufacturing with powder bed technology, and digital solutions for future-oriented processes in medical technology.

Continuous growth in the market for medical technology has consequences for the giants in the industry. Production areas are getting ever tighter, while at the same time prices for implants continue to fall. Manufacturers are coming together in order to meet these challenges. The acquisition of Biomet by Zimmer and of Covidien by Medtronic are just two examples in recent years. The trend is towards more efficiency on all levels, especially in the production of sophisticated products such as knee and hip prostheses or spinal implants.

Integral automated processes boost efficiency

DMG MORI is a long-standing partner for manufacturers of medical technology – 12 of the 20 largest players are among its customers – and the company is well acquainted with the special challenges in mechanical production.

“The technological possibilities are not, for example, the limiting factor here,” says Marcus Krüger, Head of the DMG MORI Medical Excellence Center. “Instead, it is the high demands in the certification requirements of medical products that determine the process in medical technology.”

Where production solutions are concerned, it has therefore become more important than ever to integrate digital solutions very early on in the production process: “Barcode readers, the measurement and marking of parts as integrated options in CELOS, and thus also in the production process, will both simplify and accelerate documentation and tracking.”

Automated processes include virtually unmanned production, but also the reading of programmes, quantities and batch sizes in the production environment, as well as feedback to the entire system. Krüger considers automation solutions generally a major trend in a wide range of sub-disciplines: “This involves the loading and unloading of single parts and small series in orthopaedics. The focus here is on flexible automations, as it is in the production of medical instruments.”

Due to the high quantities, machining from bar is preferred, as Krüger adds: “The limited production areas in this sector necessitate space-saving, integrated automation solutions.”

DMG MORI has these in its portfolio in the form of pallet and workpiece handling systems and robotic automation.

The DMG MORI Medical Excellence Centre

Using its wide-ranging product portfolio, DMG MORI develops optimum manufacturing solutions for its customers within the medical technology sector. In the DMG MORI Medical Excellence Centre, set up specifically for this purpose at DECKEL MAHO Seebach, the company’s team of experts realise innovative turnkey solutions for both industry giants as well as smaller companies and suppliers that enable cost-effective production. Engineers are involved early in the development phase of customers’ projects. Consequently they learn a lot and integrate the knowledge thus gained in the construction of DMG MORI’s machines and components, in order to design ever more efficient manufacturing solutions.

This was put to the test impressively during the first Medical Days event that took place last June at DECKEL MAHO Seebach. Customers from Germany, Switzerland and the Republic of Ireland discussed the increase in productivity for medical technology with experts from all fields.

A study undertaken by Avicenne indicates the industry will grow on average by 4.4% in the coming years. This trend will be accompanied by continuous price pressure.

“Certification issues will also become more acute and will have an impact on production,” adds Krüger. “The challenge we face is exactly that, to overcome such hurdles and to ensure that both the high demands on quality and low machining times are met with innovative production solutions.”

DMG MORI’s range of efficient, high-performance CNC machine tools remain an essential basis for delivering economic automation solutions. Many users prefer a footprint that is as compact as possible, so models such as the MILLTAP 700 compact machining centre and the SPRINT automatic turning machine are in high demand, as well as the DMU 50 and the smaller DMU eVo models for five-sided milling and the NTX 1000 second-generation in six-sided complete machining. With this portfolio, DMG MORI covers a wide range of components in the all important orthopaedic field.

The high demands on quality and the need for shorter machining times are aspects that the entire range of products in medical technology have in common.

“So complete machining is a commonplace topic in the industry,” says Krüger. “In particular complex parts such as knee implants made of cobalt-chrome can be manufactured with maximum efficiency in five-axis simultaneous machining on a DMU 40 eVo linear. speedMASTER spindles with up to 30,000rpm or spindles with up to 60,000rpm for the HSC 20 linear achieve surface qualities that require a minimum of post-processing effort.”

The dynamics and positioning accuracy of the linear drives make these ideally suited to such requirements. With the aid of the PH 10|100 pallet handling system, for example, DMG MORI ensures a high level of productivity in this area for even the lowest quantities.

With its NTX 1000 second generation, DMG MORI also delivers impressive results in the six-sided complete machining of, for example, different components for hip and knee prostheses. The turn-mill centre achieves on just 10sqm what would otherwise require at least two machines in many places. The NTX 1000 second generation derives its unparalleled efficiency from its versatile equipment options. These enable, among other things, parallel machining of the workpieces using a milling spindle and a bottom turret. The solid machine construction ensures highly accurate machining, while the tool magazine with up to 76 stations contributes to a high degree of flexibility in production. Several automation solutions, among them one with integrated six-axis robot for loading chuck parts, round off the equipment options.

The machining of titanium and titanium alloys is also of great importance in medical technology. The MILLTAP 700 performs impressively here with its extreme rigidity, high spindle speeds and intelligent cooling system. Added together, these features guarantee shortest machining times and best surface qualities in the production of bone plates. The WH 3 workpiece handling system enables low manpower production. The MILLTAP 700 now also machines degradable magnesium alloys with integrated fire-extinguishing system and two-tier flame detectors.

The manufacture of bone screws is carried out under very similar conditions on the automatic turning machines in the SPRINT series. With SWISSTYPEkit, integrated spindle drives – 10,000 rpm for main and counter spindle – and Direct Drive in the X1 axis, the SPRINT 20|8 reduces machining times by 35%. Furthermore, the two tool carriages for a maximum of 36 tools – including up to ten driven tools – enable effortless machining of complex components.

Exclusive DMG MORI technology cycles like 3D quickSET for highest kinematic precision or ATC for top surface qualities complete the range of services for users in the medical technology field.