Lasers are ideally suited to a wide range of processes used in manufacture of medical devices, offering clean, precise and highly-repeatable results. They can be used to cut, drill, ablate, weld, micromachine, surface texture or mark a wide variety of materials.
For example, most conventional welding technologies reach their limit when welding Titanium or Titanium alloys, whereas laser welding achieves some of its best results with Titanium and its alloys. Lasers are also very effective for cutting and welding polymers.
Laser welding also produces a very small heat-affected zone (HAZ), reducing the need for further remedial processes and assisting biocompatibility. Laser-welded joints are free of porosity, provide a hermetic seal and can survive repeated high-temperature sterilisation.
Examples of laser applications in medical devices include:
—Drilling small holes for drug-delivery devices and for fluid separation
—Welding pacemakers, endoscopes, brain clamps, implants, bellows, diaphragms and for sealing very small parts
—Cutting stents, blades and tubing
—Drilling needles and catheter tubes
—Marking, including sell-by dates, serial numbers, anti-counterfeiting and bar codes
—Surface texturing to enhance hydrophilic or hydrophobic surfaces
—Transparent materials can be laser-welded by the addition of special materials that absorb diode laser radiation, or by use of UV or femtosecond lasers