Learn about the re-useable capabilities of precision plastics

 

In the world of recycling, plastic tends to have a bad reputation or it gets whispered like a dirty word.  Indeed, according to the UN Environment Programm, one million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute.  This is certainly a disturbing statistic, and we are tasked with addressing the consequences of this waste.  However, it is important to distinguish the type of plastics causing severe pollution.  Plastic bottles and plastic bags are single-use, disposable plastics.  These are the ones that are clogging up the environment.

 

What people don’t discuss often is plastics that are re-usable and recyclable.  At AIP, the plastics that we precision machine are high grade, quality polymers made for durability and continuous use in the following industries: Aerospace and Defense; Medical and Life Sciences; Power and Energy; Specialized Industrial.  That means they are evergreen materials that will not only last, but could be repurposed for a different application altogether.  Read on to find out about some of the high-performance polymers we work with, what they are used for and how they can be recycled.

 

Everyday Sustainable Precision Plastics
PolymerPropertiesAIP’s Machined Applications
PPSBroadest chemical resistance; zero moisture absorption; dimensional stability; ultra-low wear factors and structural strength

*available in several grades

Case Study: High-quality PPS wheel bushings for a theme park water ride.

  • Reduced ride downtime
  • Saved on maintenance and inventory costs
  • Lower energy cost
  • Efficient design
  • Low-wear
TORLONHighest performing, melt-processible plastic; maintains strength and stiffness up to 500 F; chemical, thermal and stress resistance

*available in several grades

Ideal for critical mechanical and structural components for severe levels of temperature and stress

  • Jet Engine Components
  • High Temperature Electrical Connectors
  • Automotive Transmission components
  • Wear Rings in Oil Recovery
  • Valve Seats
PEEKBiocompatible; abrasion and chemical resistant; low moisture absorption; very low smoke and toxic gas emission

*available in several grades

Case Study: PEEK Dynamic Telescopic Craniotomy (skull plate for brain traumas

  • Reduced ride downtime
  • Saved on maintenance and inventory costs
  • Lower energy cost
  • Efficient design
  • Low-wear
RADELImpact resistance; hydrolytic stability; excellent toughness; chemical resistance; heat deflection temperature of 405 F (207 C)
ULTEMExcellent heat and flame resistance; high rigidity and strength; low thermal conductivity; highest dielectric strength

*available in several grades

Used as structural components in several industries

  • High-voltage circuit-breaker housings
  • High-temperature bobbins, coils, fuse blocks and wire coatings
  • Jet-engine components
  • Aircraft interior and electrical hardware parts
  • Microwave applications
  • Replaces glass in medical lamps

 

Thermoplastics – The Green Plastic

 

There are two types of polymers – thermoplastics and thermosets.  The plastics that we work with primarily at AIP are thermoplastics.  So, what’s a thermoplastic and how is it re-usable or recyclable?

 

It’s all about how the polymer reacts to chemicals and temperature.  Thermoplastics soften when heated and become more fluid, which makes them a very flexible polymer.  For this reason, these plastics can be remolded and recycled without losing their mechanical properties or dimensional stability.  Let’s go in depth on some of the common thermoplastics we use for evergreen applications.

 

The AIP case study focusing on the use of PPS for the log flume ride bushing component is an excellent example of a thermoplastic built and machined for continuous use.  The bushing made from PPS could be used over and over again without wear.  Furthermore, it could be immersed in water and other chemicals without losing dimensionality or durability.

 

PEEK and ULTEM are both common polymers we machine at AIP.  With PEEK’s high chemical resistance and biocompatibility, it is ideal for surgical applications such as the Dynamic Telescopic Craniotomy Case Study.  This polymer can withstand the internal temperatures and fluids of the body for extended use.

 

ULTEM is known for its strength and rigidity in extreme environments and temperatures.  This polymer is often used for re-useable medical instruments, since it reacts well to autoclave sterilizations.  Additionally, it’s flammability rating and dimensional stability make it ideal as a weight-saving aerospace component.

 

As the plastics industry continues to innovate, the next generation of research will turn towards more sustainable and environmentally conscious materials.  Thermoplastics are one of the pioneers of this industry – leading plastics into the future as a material that can be reused and recycled.

 

Unrivaled Expertise. Unparalleled Results

 

With 36+ years of experience in the industry, our dedicated craftsmen and ties to leading plastic manufacturers allow us to provide you with unrivaled knowledge and consulting in material selection, sizing, manufacturing techniques and beyond to best meet your project needs.

 

AIP offers a unique combination of CNC machining, raw material distribution, and consultancy as a reliable source for engineering information for materials such as PEEK, TORLON, ULTEM and more.

 

We are AS 9100D compliant; certified and registered with ISO 13485 and ISO 9001 and standards in our commitment to machining quality custom plastic components for specialized industrial sectors. Quality assurance is included as an integral part of our process and is addressed at every step of your project, from concept to completion.  Unrivaled Expertise.  Unparalleled Results.

 

 

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3D Additive Manufacturing vs CNC MachiningThere’s no doubt that plastics have become more and more popular in modern medicine. Short lead times are essential in this industry, and both 3D additive manufacturing and CNC machining provide fast production times. When is your medical application better suited for 3D printing, though, and when does precision plastic machining have the upper hand in plastic manufacturing?

 

There are a few key differences and similarities between these types of plastic manufacturing that you should keep in mind for your medical applications. It helps to have a basic understanding of each manufacturing process, first.

 

Subtractive vs Additive Manufacturing

Subtractive Manufacturing

CNC machining is a type of “subtractive manufacturing.” This means that the process generally begins with a solid block of plastic material which is cut or shaped into the desired product through “removing” excess material.

 

While CNC machining requires more initial setup than 3D printing, it offers repeatability, accuracy for both large and small parts, and a wide range of polymers and composites to choose from, as well as a variety of surface finishes. It scales easily between one-time jobs and high-volume production.

 

Additive Manufacturing

3D printing is “additive manufacturing,” which means the initial material is built layer by layer, rather than removed as in subtractive manufacturing. 3D printing creates three-dimensional objects from reading a digital file’s blueprint. When working with plastics, you’re primarily talking about FDM 3D printing. While FDM is widely considered the most quick and cost-effective way of producing custom thermoplastic parts and prototypes, it also has the lowest dimensional accuracy and resolution of any other 3D printing technology.

 

Another option for additive manufacturing is SLS 3D printing, which fuses together the particles of thermoplastic polymer powders. This version of 3D printing has higher accuracy than FDM; however, it comes at the cost of longer lead times, which can be expensive in the medical industry.

 

Choosing the Right Technology for Your Medical Application

As always, choosing the correct technology is dependent on your particular medical application. What you value in your completed product can help determine which style of plastics manufacturing works best for your needs. Some of your considerations should be:

 

Material Consultancy

Both CNC machining and additive manufacturing work with a wide variety of thermoplastics, but those plastics react to manufacturing in different ways. Some materials machine more easily than others, while certain thermoplastic materials are more prone to warping in 3D printing.

 

Your manufacturer should be familiar with your chosen material and be able to discuss the process of machining or 3D printing it with you. At AIP Precision Machining, we have 35+ years of material and machining expertise and we include consultancy as an integral part of our manufacturing process.

 

Mechanical Properties

CNC machining ultimately provides greater dimensional accuracy and better performing properties than additive manufacturing. Machined thermoplastics possess both great mechanical and thermal properties with fully isotropic behavior. If your product requires unique, strong design with critical tolerances, then FDM 3D printing may not be not ideal; this type of printing is inherently anisotropic, meaning it isn’t the best option for mechanically critical components.

 

Medical applications, in particular, have unique considerations that ought to be taken into account, both for choosing your initial material and determining how it ought to be manufactured.

 

Precision Tolerances

Precision CNC machining provides close tolerances for your applications with a fine, burr-free finish. In fact, 3D printed products for the medical field regularly go into CNC machining post-processing as a secondary step in order to accomplish better tolerances or a finishing cut, as FDM parts tend to have visible layer lines.

 

Extreme tolerances up to 0.002mm can be produced by AIP Precision Machining, which can be necessary in demanding industries such as the medical, aerospace and energy markets.

 

Quick Turnaround

Both CNC machining and 3D printing have quick turnarounds, especially when compared to injection molding. Machining designs are crafted on the same computer applications used by 3D printers, so there is no cost associated with design changes for either type of plastics manufacturing. However, when time is truly critical, 3D printed parts can be delivered in 24 hours. Quality and functional usefulness, in this case, may be sacrificed for expediency.

 

AIP Precision Machining can guarantee your complex polymers machined in as little as 10 business days, with quality assured from concept to completion.

 

Volume of Production

Smaller batches, such as 1-10 plastic components, can be more cost-effective if produced with additive manufacturing. This is because using a non-standard blank size increases the cost of machining. Plastic machining, however, easily scales between small and large outputs.

 

If you require a high-quality product that possesses extreme mechanical and thermal strength, it is worth precision machining for that reason alone.

 

The Final Consideration? Experience.

The medical field often has no room for error when it comes to implants, spinal devices and orthopedic equipment. This is why—no matter what type of plastic manufacturing you choose—you want to be sure you’re working with an expert who understands the importance of sterilization, biocompatibility, and other traits that may be necessary for your application.

 

AIP is FDA and ISO 13485:2016 registered and has been audited by some of the most stringent OEMs in the orthopedic and medical device industries. We process our plastics with strict hygienic procedures.

 

Whoever you work with, be sure they understand the needs of your industry and have the experience to prove it.

 

Click here to learn more about the utility of each technology with regard to precision efficiency, materials and more.

Or, request a quote with AIP Precision Machining here.

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Strict Hygienic Procedures for Precision Machining

 

It’s no secret that cleanliness and sterilization are crucial for applications in the medical industry. Any manufacturer you hire for machining your plastic component should be aware of this, and taking actions to prevent any contamination from taking place.

 

Here are three ways you can ensure that your medical application is being precision machined by a manufacturer committed to following strict hygienic procedures.

 

1) Check Industry Standards

 

Ensuring sterilization starts with picking the right manufacturing company, and you’ll want to be sure they take the matter of contamination seriously. To start, check their commitment to quality management and industry standards.

 

All product manufacturing companies must follow industry standards like International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Before you work with a manufacturing company for your medical application, look at their certifications.

 

For example, ISO 13485 specifies requirements for a quality management system where a company demonstrates it can provide medical devices and related services to consistently meet customer and regulatory requirements. ISO 9001 focuses on meeting customer expectations and continually delivering satisfaction, plus reflects constant improvement from the company.

 

If the manufacturer you are interested in using does not have any of the above standards, then you may want to ask them why.

 

Here at AIP Precision Machining, we have been successfully audited by some of the most stringent OEMs in the orthopedic and medical device industries, and are ISO 13485:2016., ISO 9001:2015 , and FDA registered.

 

2) Plastic Machining isn’t Metal MachiningMetal vs Plastic Machining

 

Be wary of any manufacturer who machines both plastics and metals in the same facility. The tiniest sliver of metal embedded in a plastic part can have widespread ramifications, such as an unexpected electrical problem in the medical device.

Additionally, it’s common for metal machining companies to use oil-based cutting fluids. Any equipment that machines metal, then, can contaminate your plastic parts with those fluids. Many plastic materials are especially sensitive to those petroleum-based liquids, and they can degrade when in contact with them; others are hydroscopic and will absorb the oils.

 

It should be noted that plastic parts manufactured using equipment that machines metal parts will not meet FDA-approval, or the other industry standards mentioned above. The safest way to avoid this is to hire a plastics expert, not a metal machining company.

 

AIP takes the matter of sterilization seriously, and ensures the highest level of sanitation down to the sub-molecular level for its products. By designing, stress relieving and machining only plastics, AIP significantly reduces the threat of metallic cross contamination and therefore allows for the highest hygienic products possible.

 

3) Look for Experience

 

The most important factor to take into account overall is experience. Your supplier should be familiar with the types of polymers and composites you need machined, and should additionally know the best machining process for your application.

 

For the medical industry, you want to know that your manufacturer is experienced with the complex needs of your applications. For example, if your components are going to come into contact with body tissue or fluids, then they must be biocompatible per ISO 10993.

 

Which is to say: If you’re machining implants, your plastics will require different needs than if you’re machining reusable surgical instruments. Both require, however, careful attention to detail. A surgical instrument must be designed with sterilization compatibility for regular cycles in mind, while an implant requires biocompatibility to be safe for use.

 

Be sure that your manufacturer is familiar with the processes that come with your application, and check that they’ve done it before.

With 35+ years of experience, AIP is well acquainted with precision machining for the medical industry and guarantees careful material selection and processing for your medical applications.

 

The #1 Best Way to Avoid Contamination?

Overall, the best thing you can do to avoid contamination is to hire a plastic manufacturer with the experience and the credentials to complete your project to the highest standards of quality possible. Keeping the above three factors in mind will help you do just that.

 

To ask about AIP Precision Machining’s capabilities for precision machining medical applications, please contact us.

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Thermoplastics in Medical ApplicationsWhen it comes to choosing a thermoplastic material for your medical applications, product durability, agency approval, biocompatibility and cleanliness aren’t just desirable—they’re essential. Beyond even that, though, a host of other factors must be considered when determining which high-performance plastic or composite material to use for an implant, orthopedic surgical guides, body fluid contact components, spinal devices, or surgical instruments. Medical product applications are becoming more and more advanced due to critical performance and alignment requirements as well as the need for radiolucency to support minimally invasive procedures. Therefore, the choice of plastic material specified for a given application as well as a manufacturer with battle-hardened experience is the critical first step in your decision process.

 

AIP has well over three decades of expertise with thermoplastic materials, and understands how plastics react when machined. We are one of a very select few companies able to hold incredibly tight tolerances in plastic parts. AIP has been successfully audited by some of the most stringent OEMs in the orthopedic and medical device industries, and are ISO 13485:2016, ISO 9001:2015 and FDA registered.

 

Here are just a few initial, yet critical considerations that take place when we determine the thermoplastic to best suit your particular medical or life science application.

 

Biocompatibility

 

If your components are going to come into contact with body tissue or fluids, then those components must be biocompatible per ISO 10993; if the manufacturer you are working with is not familiar with this standard and cannot provide you with this certification for the material, then move on to a manufacturer with medical industry knowledge. This is especially true if the polymers will undergo long-term contact with body tissues and fluid, such as when used as an implant. Polymers can undergo degradation due to biochemical and mechanical factors in the body, which results in ionic attack and formation of hydroxyl ions and dissolved oxygen. In turn, this can lead to tissue irritation, inflammation, and other reactions with body-like corrosion, wear and potential death. Due to this, very few polymers are available as medical grade for medical application, with an even smaller amount considered a candidate for implants.

 

AIP Precision Machining includes machined PEEK implants among its many capabilities for custom medical applications precisely due to PEEK’s biocompatibility. PEEK is also inert to body fluids, making it exceptional for bone surgery as well as areas of traumatology and orthopaedics. Another valuable trait of PEEK is that this material has a very similar modulus to that of human bone. The similar modulus to bone reduces the potential for stress shielding. Stress shielding is common with metallic implants whereby the metal implant and bone do not become one nor work in unison to form a single construct. By using Invibio’s PEEK Optima or Solvay’s Zeniva PEEK as an implant material, the bone and PEEK will grow into a single construct mimicking the bone’s natural tendency to repair the fracture or fusion.

 

Sterilization Compatibility

 

Plastics react differently to various sterilization methods, and if a product is not a single-use device and involves body tissue and fluid contact, then it may regularly undergo sterilization. The usual sterilization methods are radiation (gamma/e-beam), chemical (ETO), or autoclave (steam). ETO is rarely a concern, but radiation and autoclaving both require resistance from plastics. Several radiation resistant thermoplastics are:

 

 

When it comes to autoclaving, the best polymers for resistance are PPSU and PEEK, with both capable of handling exposure to thousands of cycles.

 

AIP takes the matter of sterilization seriously and ensures the highest level of sanitation down to the sub-molecular level for its products. By designing, stress relieving and machining only plastics, AIP significantly reduces the threat of metallic cross-contamination and therefore allows for the highest hygienic products possible.

 

Chemical Resistance

 

A polymer can be exposed to plenty of disinfection chemicals in a hospital. That exposure can deteriorate plastics, and negatively affect part performance. Polymer chains can be affected by isopropyl alcohol, bleaches, and peroxides. Semi-crystalline polymers like PP, PE, PTFE and PEEK can be expected to have better chemical resistance than amorphous polymers like ABS and PC. However, it’s important to check the performance to be certain of resistances, as exceptions can take place.

 

With decades of experience working with thermoplastics, AIP guarantees extreme chemical resistance in its material selection for your medical applications.

 

Electrical & Thermal Properties

 

Dielectric strength and thermal resistance are necessary for medical devices enclosed in areas that require high heat resistance. Thermoplastics such as PC (Polycarbonate), PC blends, PPS (polyphenylene sulfide), PEI and PS (polystyrene) blends have electrical properties that perform well, some even at elevated temperatures.

 

AIP’s material library includes thermoplastics that exhibit extreme thermal performance, and we are familiar with machining them in applications for medical life & sciences.

 

Mechanical Properties

 

Properties such as tensile and compressive strength, wear resistance, impact strength, and bending stiffness also must be considered when choosing your thermoplastic. Engineered thermoplastics such as PC, PEEK, PPSU, POM, PEI and reinforced grades of these same materials (glass, aramid and carbon fillers) perform very well in this respect, making them ideal for a variety of climate conditions, such as during transportation.

 

AIP provides thermoplastics that show extreme wear resistance, x-ray visibility or invisibility and high structural performance.

 

These are just a few of the many considerations that take place when choosing the right plastic for your medical applications. AIP offers you our full material consultancy from concept to completion, so that together, we find the right thermoplastic for your projects.

 

 

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We can’t wait for the biggest Medtech event on the East coast: MD&M East! We’ll be there, ready to talk about implantable devices, medical material components and more. Visit us at our Booth #2370 to learn about our unmatched precision in plastics manufacturing.

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AIP Precision Machining recently attended the 2017 American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) Conference in San Diego, California, and had a blast reconnecting with old friends and getting to know new members within the orthopedic field.

 

The AAOS sets out to bring together medical professionals and exhibitors, allowing attendees to meet with their peers and have the opportunity to learn about the latest in medical trends and advancements. It provides a venue for all members of the orthopedic community to gather: attendees range from basic component suppliers to implant designers, surgeons and even patients.

 

AIP has been attending the AAOS for over a decade now and every year we bring technically advanced products to the show. This year, we showcased our new PREFORM technology, which was a huge hit as trends are moving more and more toward production efficiency and cost reduction.

 

PREFORM technology weaves PEEK plastic fibers together, molding trauma guides and reusable nailing instruments together to form a one-piece, complex instrument. Combining creative radiolucent guide design with added strength and cost-efficiency, many new and existing OEMs were very excited by the range of opportunities this machinery presents.

 

Another impressive theme that kept popping up during the show was a major push to move the surgery market towards robotic control. Several new OEM projects already have projects in development that rely solely on robots to prevent human error and increase surgery success rates.

 

Looking to 2018, we can’t wait for another successful AAOS Meeting—New Orleans, here we come!

 

If you’d like more information about the creative manufacturing and materials solutions AIP can provide you, give us a call at 386-274-5335.

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