Stents and tubes are used in countless medical devices and this number looks set to keep growing, fuelled in part by the growth of minimally invasive surgery and the commonplace use of stents.
The sheer number and diversity of devices is rapidly increasing and with it, the demand for more and more laser-cut stents: flexible tubing, cannulas and micro cannulas, needles, biopsy devices and other minimally invasive tools (see Figure 1, below).
[caption id="attachment_32911" align="aligncenter" width="410"] Figure 1: Common features in modern stents[/caption]
While legacy stent and tube cutting systems have performed well during recent decades, new cutting technologies coming onto the market offer faster and better cuts, with higher production rates and new and unique cutting capabilities. The pulsed neodymium-doped yttrium aluminium garnet (Nd:YAG) lasers used in the past two decades have definitely been great workhorses. They have performed well and been excellent manufacturing centres for many companies.
Unfortunately, the original integrated pulsed Nd:YAG lasers that remain in operation are now obsolete and difficult to service. While many of these systems have been upgraded to fibre lasers, they still have old stage sets that are a number of generations behind current technology. In addition, they are running on slow and ageing controllers with legacy software.
Simply put, the laser, stages, controller, software, water systems and automated tube-loader technology have all moved on. Here is a brief overview of improvements in these components that enable faster and better cuts with higher production rates and less downtime.