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  • Laser marking in the medical technology industries
  • Updated:2014-2-19      hit:3563      Author:Glorystar Laser
  • It’s all about high precision, efficiency and zero defects
    The medical industry has utilized laser technology to mark medical devices for many years. The reliability and the indelible mark that lasers produce have been a great asset to many of these companies. Laser marking and engraving still have the potential to improve and help the medical industry with quality control and product throughput.

    Writing a report about these demanding applications can be compared to looking into the kitchen while at the same time starving: It smells appetizing, but as soon as you approach the pots, you get a rap on your knuckles. The appeal remains, and is even enhanced, but the basic need is unsatisfied. Nearly the same is true for laser material processing applications in the medical industry: There are many exciting applications and fascinating innovations, but instead of covering detailed information and presenting exemplary images, non-disclosure agreements prevent poking one’s nose deeper into the pots. Despite this challenge, this article tries to outline both state-of-the-art processes and innovative developments.

    Classical applications

    Until recently, laser marking in the medical industry meant the classical applications like marking of stainless steel surgical and dental instruments with easily readable marks that have to resist even centuple sterilizations. Most of all, it is all about marking with absolutely plain surfaces that prevent germs from sticking on the surface. The marked surface must not damage the chemical passivation that is needed for corrosion resistance so that the anticorrosive coating remains – even after years of usage and infinite cleanings and sterilizations.

    Documented applications
    Laser marking in the medical industry has also become one of the preferred identification processes as it ensures high-quality marks, high precision, system reliability, and great repetition accuracy. Manufacturers in the medical sector are bound to strict adherence to defined processes. Possible changes to accepted marking templates must therefore be documented in detail. Manufacturers with equipment that is capable of repetition accuracy by the help of vision systems are on the inside track. Some suppliers already offer marking machines with integrated vision that are capable of detecting changed component positions and defective or flawed parts and automatically aligning the marking relative to these. By doing this, it is no longer or only very seldom necessary that manufacturers adapt marking jobs and thus existing processes and documentations.

     Laser marked bone plate.

    Quality assurance and traceability
    To enable smooth, hygienic and long- lasting marks on most materials, a broad range of laser technologies, wavelengths, laser powers, and pulse widths to choose from is the prerequisite. Such uncompromising high quality marks have a further task to fulfill: They have to be qualified for both internal and external quality assurance and traceability tests. This is how individual 2D code marks on individually manufactured implants can be used for checking whether the one and only implant is available for implantation. All these code and traceability options are integrated in state-of-the-art laser marking software programs – from the marking of a part number as 2D code through the application of consecutive numberings as bar or 2D codes to applying logos or measuring marks of graphics.

    Integrated vision for less waste and high-precision
    If lasers are operated by printing a job without determining if the correct part is present, or, if there is even a part in position at all, then parts could be marked with incorrect information and/or marked in the incorrect location, creating waste parts. Since many of the medical devices manufactured are expensive, this waste has a significant impact on the bottom line.

    Medical devices such as bone screws and hip replacement parts are made in various sizes but the basic shape can be the same. Incorrect mark content on a part can result in not only wasted parts, but also a potential quality control nightmare that can have severe legal ramifications.

    Product waste and quality issues like these can now be reduced to a minimum. The use of an integrated vision system – for example, Red light preview function with marking content, precisely poisoning the pre-marked area– ensures that codes are marked not only on the correct parts but also on the correct position on the parts.

    Manufacturers benefit from such uncompromising traceable quality: A lifetime lasting mark can be used against unwarranted claims for compensation, as each and every part can be completely traced and easily distinguished from copies of any kind.

    Bone screw (high-alloyed stainless steel) with laser marked 2D code.

      Laser marked Surgical instrument
    Where do we go from here?
    Laser marking plays an important role in the medical industry. Many manufacturers have discovered the laser’s versatility, accuracy, benefits, and cost savings in their operations. They can be used for sensitive applications, quality control, waste reduction, increasing production and enhancing accuracy. However, the demands put on the medical industry – whether it is due to documentation, new or sensitive materials, technology or other changes in the marketplace – requires laser marking manufacturers to continually improve and grow to keep up.

    Laser marking manufacturers are looking at ways to offer machines and systems that are more automated and flexible, resulting in less part handling. Whether that is through vision, additional or more complex axis control and/or software, or through laser technology itself, one can be assured that the equipment will become more efficient, reduce costs and improve the quality of the marked parts.

    By forming partnerships and truly understanding what is important to the industry, laser manufacturers will be more able to supply them with those key ingredients to make them more successful.

Glorystar  Laser Tech. Co., Ltd
Glory Machinery Group Co.,Ltd.