Micromachining in the Medical Industry
One of the most rapidly growing segments of the medical industry is minimally invasive surgery. Intravenous procedures, especially, have increased because of three current goals in medicine: reduced cost, improved patient outcomes, and shortened recovery times.
Successful medical procedures rely on tiny devices, and the unusual shapes and sizes are best designed and created using ultraviolet laser micromachining. In addition, these devices are not left in the body but are disposable, requiring that they are made in the cost-efficient way possible.
An integrated laser workstation is needed, whether the project is small or large volume, in order to best produce the design specifications of the medical devices. An excimer laser workstation is one in which a laser beam takes the place of a traditional cutting blade or drill bit. A mask-projection or mask-scanning system can produce a line, rectangle, circle, hexagon, or other custom shapes. An automatic mask changer permits any pattern to be shuttled into the beam path, which allows for on-the-fly machining.
Specifically, within just the past few years, the minimally invasive medical device market has expanded to feature many new devices. Some of the most rapidly growing areas in this device field are in electrophysiology, stenting, and embolic protection.
Electrophysiology devices treat cardiac disorders, particularly arrhythmias. In order to kill tissue selectively, cauterization and cryogenic catheters can be inserted, requiring the use of micromachined devices. Excimer-processing tasks such as laser thinning or the stripping of coating to provide electrical access to wires are some of the laser techniques necessary.
Stent procedures have also been increasingly performed each year. Originally, stents were inserted into a vessel to support it during healing. In some cases, however, the body would respond with restenosis, or by covering the stent with scar tissue. To prevent this, the stent was coated with a biodegradable polymer permeated with an anti-restenosis drug. Since the stent only needs to remain in the body for 3 to 6 months, some companies are fabricating a completely biodegradable stent entirely doped with an anti-restenosis agent.
Embolic protection devices are used in conjunction with stents. Carotid artery treatment with stenting is attributed to the successful development of these devices. When reopening a vessel, the intervention and resulting debris can cause an embolic event. An embolic filter prevents broken off pieces from entering the vessels and potentially causing a stroke. Filters can be laser drilled with excimer lasers.
In order for surgery to be the most minimally invasive, highly miniaturized 3-D devises are key. As these devices continue to be designed in a more complex and sophisticated manner, the fabrication techniques must also improve. Excimer-laser micromachining is a powerful tool for the microfabrication of these intricate medical devices. Life-saving and life-extending devices depend on the continual advancements of micromachining for the medical field.