Welding micro-tube medical components

Nov. 1, 2009
Stockton-on-Tees, UK—Founded in 1995 XL Precision Technologies (formerly XL EDM Ltd.

Stockton-on-Tees, UK—Founded in 1995 XL Precision Technologies (formerly XL EDM Ltd.), specializes in the manufacture of precision micro-components and complex machined tubes, many of which are destined for the medical market. The precise nature of these components, coupled with the rigorous quality standards required by the medical industry, means that the processes used to manufacture them must themselves provide absolute precision and consistency. Recent investments by the company in new laser technology for micromachining and laser welding have ensured that the company will remain a world leader in the manufacture of tight tolerance, micro-dimension components.

FIGURE 1. Laser welded Minimal Invasion Surgery procedure instrument
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XL Precision Technologies is well-known as a manufacturer of stainless steel tube components and assemblies, producing around 900,000 individual parts each year. To meet the ever increasing demand for these products, the company purchased its second laser welder from Rofin-Baasel UK Ltd. ([email protected]) earlier this year. The new StarWeld Select compliments the company's existing Rofin laser, which has been in production for more than two years, and provides not only the much needed additional capacity, but also ultimate flexibility in the way in which the system can be used. The system incorporates four high-precision axes, which can be controlled manually by use of a joystick or operated under full CNC control.

FIGURE 2. Laser welded Minimal Invasion Surgery irrigation tube.
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The multimode operational capability of this system is particularly suited to the needs of XL Precision Technologies, enabling different techniques to be used for product development, prototyping, and full production runs. Used in its simplest form, as a manual welding machine, component subassemblies can be aligned and tacked manually if required. When used in semi-automatic mode, the system can be operated under joystick control for manual deposit welding or prototyping new and complex welding geometries. The full CNC operational mode provides the functionality required for large batch and continuous production runs.

Typical examples of medical industry components and subassemblies laser welded by XL Precision Technologies include part of a minimally invasive surgery (MIS) procedure instrument (see FIGURE 1). Comprised of 6 individual items—4 tubes and 2 spacers—the part is produced in two separate stages. The first operation is to circumferentially weld the smaller 1.2mm outside diameter tube longitudinally to the larger 1.6mm outside diameter tube.

Two subassemblies from the first operation are subsequently located in a custom designed fixture, together with the 2 spacers and then laser welded on both sides to complete the assembly. All welding operations on these parts are performed by the laser under full CNC control. The dimensional tolerance achieved on the finished assembly in this application is +/- 0.030mm.

Another example, illustrated in FIGURE 2, is an irrigation tube used for operation procedure irrigation fluid vectors. At first glance this might look like a relatively simple part, however with an outside diameter of only 2.0mm and an acute welding angle this is an especially challenging component to produce. The welding operation on this part requires not only accurate positioning but very precise control of the welding parameters and complex component manipulation, all key attributes of the StarWeld Select and instrumental in achieving the desired result.

As an innovative and dedicated company which prides itself on quality and customer care, XL Precision Technologies is already a preferred supplier for major customers in the medical, aerospace, motorsport, and marine industries. The addition of this latest laser welding system will allow XL to continue to help its customers develop products that completely satisfy functional requirements and that can be manufactured accurately with ongoing repeatability.

For further information on XL Precision Technologies contact [email protected].

Laser marking of solar panels

Mukilteo, WA—Solar panels comprise multiple photovoltaic (PV), or solar, cells that convert energy from the sun directly into electricity for use in homes and commercial buildings. The manufacture of these panels has grown dramatically in recent years, thanks to an increasing demand for alternative energy sources.

CO2 laser marking has been adopted by a number of PV manufacturers, as its flexibility and minimal maintenance requirements allows them to accomplish the numerous product identification requirements of this industry. Many of the materials used in the manufacture of solar panels—silicon, ceramic, glass, and composites—are readily marked with 10 to 25W CO2 lasers, creating the potential for a broad number of marking applications.

CO2 lasers are used to marked photovoltaic materials.
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Synrad lasers and galvo marking heads are currently being used to mark the serial numbers, performance ratings, and other customer-specific information that are often required of individual PV cells. The flexibility of the software-controlled marking process allows for fast, automated data change for each mark. In addition to marking the photovoltaic materials, CO2 lasers are used to add 2D codes, text, or other identifying marks to the solar panels' protective glass for process control purposes.

CO2 lasers offer clear benefits to the PV industry over other marking technologies, making them an appealing option to manufacturers. Unlike labels or ink that can peel or scratch off, the laser creates a permanent mark that will withstand weathering. Additionally, lasers offer a more environmentally friendly means of marking, without the use of labels, chemicals, inks, and other consumables and pollutants. PV suppliers are using the Synrad 25W Fenix Laser Marker or the FH Flyer galvo-based marking head, which may be aligned to any Synrad laser from 10 to 125W.

For more information about Synrad products, visit the company website at www.synrad.com or e-mail to [email protected].

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