Specialty metals have a long history with the medical industry, particularly in medical device development. From the most basic diagnostic guide wires to the most advanced body implants, these metals are unstoppable in proving themselves medically useful.
Stainless SteelStainless Steel
Stainless steel has been the champion of the medical device market through the last decades. Obviously, it is the top alloy of choice of most design engineers, thanks to its low cost, wide variety of forms and finishes, and corrosion-resistant properties.
Another highly versatile metal popularly used in making medical devices is titanium. Just like stainless steel, it does not corrode and it connects perfectly with human bone, causing less negative reactions than other metals. The process that allows natural bone and tissue to fully attach to a titanium implant is known as osseointegration. The metal is one of the staples of the medical device industry, and is commonly used to make a wide range of products, from heart implants to orthopedic rods, pins and plates.
Medical device manufacturers have shown considerable and interest in niobium in the last few years. The metal is usually used in pacemakers are other similar devices because of its physiological inertness. When treated with sodium hydroxide, niobium creates a porous layer that promotes osseointegration, making it a good alternative for internal medical applications.
Tantalum has been used for more than 40 years in the medical device industry, expecially in making diagnostic marker bands and as a catheter plastic compounding additive. Its corrosion resistance and high ductility make it a great choice for wire-shaped applications, such as implants. It is also known for being easy to weld and having good dielectric properties.
Nitinol is a nickel-titanium shape memory alloy (around 51% Ni) that has superelastic properties when subjected to applied stress. Shape memory is what gives the metal the ability to restore its original state when heated above its transformation temperature. With its ability to manage large strains, along with its physiological and chemical compatibility with the human body, nitinol has become a preferred material for medical device engineers and designers.
Lastly, the medical industry seems to have adjusted its position on copper and is actually funding more and more research to look into the metal and its allows. Copper was once off limits for most medical purposes, considering its thrombogenic (bleeding) risks, but now, it has grown a new fanbase in the device community. What’s responsible for this change is the fact that with proper shielding, the metal can be an effective transmitter of signals to small implants and diagnostic tools. Companies that make copper products for medical uses generally have their own equipment for metal wire/strip shielding, so as to ensure excellent quality and prevention of cross-contamination.