Miniature medical helpers

Weinheim, November 12, 2014. Since 1957, medical technology has held a special position within the Freudenberg Group. Innovations such as biodegradable wound dressings, real-time lung function monitoring systems or micro-implants make life easier for patients and physicians. Over the past 30 years, the Helix Medical Business Group has won a reputation as a leading supplier of precision silicone and thermoplastic components, minimally invasive devices and voice prostheses. At Medica/ComPaMED in Düsseldorf, Helix Medical is also presenting its HelixMicro technology program, focusing on miniature medical solutions.

Miniaturization is one of the major trends in medical technology. In modern medical devices, very little space is available for precision silicone components. Frequently, individual components only have a size of a few millimeters. Nevertheless, they must reliably perform their increasingly complex functions. As a result, the shapes of the components are also becoming more complex and are subject to tighter and tighter tolerance limits. Helix Medical is facing up to these challenges.

The medical technology specialist has developed and installed its HelixMicro program at its Kaiserslautern production plant in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate. The program combines innovative technical equipment with the materials and process competence of Helix Medical. This has led to the development of a unique product portfolio including silicone tubes with a diameter of 0.2 millimeters and lower produced to dimension tolerances in the range of hundreds of millimeters. These tubes are used in hearing prostheses for example. For implants in the fields of ear, nose and throat surgery and neurology, Helix Medical produces silicone moldings by the precision injection molding process. The material used in each production cycle, the "shot weight", is less than 1 milligram. "Our blend of machine fleet, process competence and development support is what makes the difference," explains René Heilmann, Marketing Manager at Helix Medical.

In the HelixMicro program, processes downstream from the actual molding stage are especially important. A wide variety of treatment and coating processes are available. Depending on the material and the effects required, the silicone can be given water-repellent, water-soluble, oil-repellent or oil-soluble properties. In addition, friction can be reduced by targeted surface modification to eliminate the adhesive effect of silicone. Reduced friction is always important if a silicone part is to be installed using an automated process. "With precision molds which have a size of only a few millimeters, things can be exciting. With surface modifications using nano-technology, you can really program a silicone part," Heilmann explains.