Tool support is essential for grinding longer medical tools.
Photos courtesy of ANCA, Straits Orthopaedics

COVID-19 is the most extreme example of rapid market change and resulting uncertainty in a generation. But, even after normal circumstances return, manufacturers must be constantly vigilant, watching and responding to market changes that provide new opportunities or necessitate a pivot in their business. Recognizing this, Straits Orthopaedic, a contract manufacturer of orthopedic devices, invested in ANCA machines as part of their strategy to be a flexible manufacturer in the medical tooling and component market.

ANCA CNC grinding machines are well suited to produce medical tools such as complex bone rasps, long rotary reamers, and small dental drills and burrs. Machine flexibility enables users to produce parts for diverse applications, not limited to one customer or task. Powerful software allows users to create programs for a broad range of cutting tools and components. Modular machine design enables easy feature configuration for various applications.

Straits’ first ANCA purchase was an FX5 tool grinder.

“Custom-made tools have become a significant part of our growth in the medical tool market. We need the ability to make special tools to varying customer requirements and be able to do it quickly,” says Vidyadhiraj Vidyadharan, senior process development engineer at Straits Orthopaedic. “ANCA’s FX5, with its flexible tool programming software, has allowed us to meet this need. Demand for our diverse range of medical drills, reamers, and planers easily justified our second FX5.”

Multi-application tool support

ANCA's CIM3D software validates the grinding process before starting on the machine.

They expanded its manufacturing capabilities further with ANCA’s TX7 Linear. Straits wanted to manufacture hip rasps and larger, longer orthopedic reamers – two very different applications. Hip rasps have complex CAD-CAM programming requirements and are ground with between-center workholding. Orthopedic reamers are long and thin and require flexible tool support options to avoid tool deflection and vibration during production.

To comply with processes’ differing needs, Straits requested the P-axis traveling steady option on its TX7. This feature gave tool support options for both applications. ANCA engineers demonstrated how the TX7 could be quickly configured from a fixed tailstock for the hip rasp application to a travelling tool support for the reamer.

A CNC dresser was also part of Straits’ machine package. Medical stainless steel is sticky and can clog the grinding wheel, which then no longer cuts freely. Vitrified bond cubic boron nitride (CBN) grinding wheels are proving to be a better alternative. The TX7’s built-in CNC dresser allows wheels to be re-dressed as required to ensure correct wheel profile, and the grinding grit is kept open for free cutting.

Programming capability

With experience grinding rotary cutting tools on the FX5 machines, Straits was confident that the TX7 would easily cover the reamer applications they wanted to perform. However, rasp manufacture was a different proposition – as complex 3D parts, they required a CAD-CAM programming environment. ANCA supports this with their own ANCam software that operates in the Siemens-NX environment.

ANCam allows machine operators to make program adjustments on the machine rather than the CAD-CAM programming environment. Additionally, ANCA CIM3D software allows programmers to view and validate the entire grinding program before starting grinding on the machine. Users can then check tool geometry and identify and eliminate grinding wheel collisions with workpiece tooling.

ANCA was also able to support Straits in developing programs for their first rasp designs as part of their bid to secure contracts for making these complex parts. And with a variety of ANCA machines in place, Straits is equipped with diverse machines and capabilities that allow them to take on new opportunities and continuously grow in the market.

ANCA CNC Machines
https://machines.anca.com

Straits Orthopaedics
https://www.straitsortho.com.my

About the author: Duncan Thompson is a product manager at ANCA, responsible for the technical direction and commercialization of new machine and application developments. Thompson can be reached at marketing@anca.com or 248.926.4466.