Materials for the medical industry

An Introduction

The Medical Industry presents some of the keenest challenges for engineering materials. In terms of absolute stress and strain on materials, the medical industry doesn't challenge the Aeronautical Industry, for example. However, it makes its own demands on materials due to the need for biocompatibility, and sterilisation.

To be considered for selection in the Medical Industry materials must be either: biocompatible for internal use, so that the body doesn't react with it; have a bone matching Young's modulus for joints, plates, screws etc. to prevent bone fragmentation; be straightfoward to shape accurately, to better guarantee a like-for-like joint replacement; possess the ability to be cleaned, leaving a sterile surface for repeated uses and generally be strong enough to face the rigours of day-to-day hospital or clinic use. 

The materials and applications on this page are listed solely as a guide and do not reflect the limit of our supply, or the uses of said materials. If you have a specific application for which you need particular materials, please do not hesitate to contact us.

aluminium

Pros

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+ Lightweight and high strength

Grades 6061, 6063 and 3003 have elements of bio-compatibility

+ Cheaper than traditional alternatives

+ Coatings and anodisation can also enhance bio-compatibility

+ Coatings may be colour coded

+ Hard anodising type III offers extremely hard coating to ensure surface integrity

+ Easily extruded into complex shapes aiding design flexibilty

Aluminium in Medicine

nickel

Pros

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+ Naturally ferromagnetic, typically used in MRI machine magnets

Nitinol (Nickel/Titanium alloy) is considered bio-compatible

+ Principal alloy of 304 Stainless Steel - used to make cabinets, sinks and                   surfaces because of its ease of cleaning and sterilisation

Nickel in Medicine

steel

Pros

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Cons

+ Broad range of alloys for a diverse set of applications

Stainless Steels are non-corrosive and anti-bacterial in nature as they hinder         oxidation, possess a self-healing passive Chromium-Oxide film, as well as               resisting staining and can be thoroughly cleaned without degradation

+ Non-magnetic - will not cause devices like pacemakers to malfunction

+ Ceases to be malleable once hardened

+ Readily shaped and formed into myriad shapes for different purposes

+ Easily sharpened and will keep its edge for multiple uses

Steel in Medicine

titanium

Pros

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Cons

+ Permanent oxide layer shields tissue from reacting with metal beneath, making     it ideally biocompatible

High strength to weight ratio

+ Non-magnetic and low electrical conductivity - will not cause devices such as         pacemakers to malfunction

+ Good fracture resistance

+ Lesser Vanadium featuring alloys such as Ti-6Al-7Nb reduce risk of cytotoxin         poisoning

+ Proven 3D printing success allows bone matching Young's modulus as well as       simpler manufacturing processes

Titanium in Medicine

carbon fibre

Pros

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Cons

+ Strong and lightweight

Stiffness can be controlled to match that of bone 

+ Non-magnetic - will not cause devices like pacemakers to malfunction

+ Radiolucent properties - almost completely transparent under fluoroscopes

+ Readily shaped and formed into myriad shapes for different purposes

+ Biocompatible

+ Excellent resistance to fatigue failure, leading to longer service life of parts

aramids

Pros

+ Biocompatible for intra-body use

Strong and abrasion resistant

+ Straightforward to form into complex shapes

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Cons

Aramids in Medicine

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Carbon Fibre in Medicine

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