CNC machines have been used to create medical products for quite some time. The detail needed to craft parts for medical use is very demanding, and very few CNC machines are equipped to handle the pressure of this type of work.
The first CNC machine was created in 1843, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that they became the go-to option for intricate tooling. The father of computerized numerical control (CNC), Jean-Jacques Haffner, patented the first CNC machine in 1961.
Medical CNC machines are powerful and fast, and they’re used to create parts such as supporting devices like crutches or braces. Life-saving pieces like implants for transplants (i.e., facial reconstruction implants) are also some of the many things these machines are responsible for making.
“CNC” stands for “computer numerical control”. A computer numerical control machine tool is one that is controlled by a computer, as opposed to a machine tool under manual or semi automatic control. This article will not only discuss the medical uses for CNC machines but also how they work.
CNC machines are used for a variety of reasons
CNC machines are now used to create many products for medical use. They can create complex shapes that would be nearly impossible with other manufacturing techniques.
Human Anatomy Modeling
Creating models to study the human body is an important task in medical education and research. CNC machines can be used to create models that would otherwise be cost-prohibitive or time-consuming without computer numerical control (CNC). These models help aid in teaching and aid in research and development.
Prosthetic Design and Development
CNC plays a role in prosthetic design, which is the creation of artificial limbs for people who have lost or injured their original limbs. The same technology that’s used to create models of human anatomy can also be used to create a 3D model of a person’s body, which is used as a blueprint for the new limb. CNC machines can then use this 3D model to create an artificial limb that fits that person perfectly.
Milling and 3D Printing
Using CNC machines in the medical field includes using them in a CNC milling machine to create prosthetics for humans. Other uses include creating mock-ups of organs or bodies for training purposes and testing prototypes.
Besides these uses, surgeons also use 3D printing technology to practice complex surgeries before doing so on human patients.
Medical implants are complicated pieces of equipment that need to be custom made using high precision. One process for creating prosthetics involves the digitizing of body scans, or taking pictures of a patient’s limb or organ that can be used to create an exact 3D replica in software. These replicas are then fed into the CNC milling machine, where the required parts are cut out. While this is a time-consuming process, it helps to reduce the cost of making a prosthetic device while ensuring a perfect fit.
The key components of a CNC machine
The spindle-chuck assembly consists of the machine’s cutting tools, as well as its input mechanism and any other hardware that transfers force from the drive system to those tools. Force is then exerted onto a workpiece or series of works, which are held by a clamping method, all of which is done according to a pre-programmed set of instructions.
The drive system consists of motors that control the spindle and any other hardware that controls linear or rotational motion. All CNC machines have some type of drive system, whether it be a belt drive, a leadscrew/ball screw, a servo-drive, or a direct drive.
The control system consists of the electronics that monitor and regulate machine functions. This typically involves an embedded controller of some sort—a dedicated microcontroller or computer—as well as input/output devices such as a touch screen interface.
The work cell refers to the complete system of all hardware associated with a given CNC machine. This includes all motors, feed devices (such as spindles), control electronics, and tooling.
CNC machines offer a great deal of power and accuracy to the medical device industry. The diversity of medical products and parts manufactured by them is a testament to this, literally making these machines ‘life savers’. Their use in the medical field will continue to grow as new applications are discovered, and it is up to designers to ensure that their products are safe, conform to medical standards, and can be efficiently manufactured on CNC machines.