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Medical device design trend: Combining additive manufacturing and traditional machining for optimal product development

Additive manufacturing is cited as the new frontier for creating medical device components, with design flexibility that goes above and beyond what traditional machining typically offers.

Across the medical device industry, companies are increasingly adopting this technology in the search for faster product development cycles.

But additive manufacturing and traditional machining have different strengths that can’t be easily duplicated by the other. To take advantage of the best of each process, companies are beginning to connect these techniques to improve product development.

How traditional machining enhances additive manufacturing

Many companies turn to additive manufacturing when there is a feature or feature set that can’t easily be conventionally machined. It’s also ideal for custom builds or when low quantities of components are needed. Traditional machining is often best suited and more cost-effective when components are being made in higher production numbers.

Another use for additive manufacturing is building near net components. This is where traditional machining can best support additive manufacturing – by transforming these components into finished pieces.

For example, a product may be created via additive manufacturing with tolerances of ±0.01 inches, but the original design intent may require final tolerances of ±0.001 inches. That level of detail and finishing, to date, is best completed by traditional machining techniques.

Traditional machining is also ideal for finishing components that require different surface textures. Once the texture is created via additive manufacturing, machines can take over to cut flat surfaces, windows, corners and edges to precise measurements that meet the design intent.

This combined approach is an innovative trend for component design and fabrication, and will continue to grow with the widespread adoption of additive manufacturing. Talk to the team a Lowell to determine if this approach is right for your device.