The medical supply industry is about 12,000 companies strong with combined annual revenue of approximately $78 billion. These companies produce instruments, apparatus, and the medical supplies that are used in hospitals and doctor’s offices. Major products range from surgical and medicinal instruments like syringes, hypodermic needles, and catheters to surgical appliances and supplies such as dressings, sutures, and dental devices. The industry is also responsible for the production of lab equipment and furniture as well as ophthalmic goods (glasses and contact lenses).Industrial supplies in this market are all specifically ordered for their unique properties to support the production of clean and safe medical supplies for use in saving lives and treating ailments. A CAD library of extensive models and blueprints ensures high quality and precision manufacturing to meet specifications with an extremely low failure rate.Material RequirementsThe number one requirement for metalworking products used for the medical supply industry is sterility. Beyond the workers themselves utilizing facemasks and latex gloves, the machinery itself must be kept clean and free of germs and bacteria. The end products of the medical supply industrial process must also conform to this requirement, and will often be a polished type of steel or smooth plastic for optimal use in a sterile environment.Because of this special requirement, most raw materials and industrial supplies are made of stainless steel to reduce bacteria growth and for easily cleanable surfaces. Many raw material stocks, such as flat and bar stock, shims, and rods, and heavy-duty workholding will be stainless steel. In applications where stainless steel is too heavy or expensive, Delrin is used as a substitute. It is a Dupont developed plastic that is high-strength and low weight with great wear resistance and low friction. Delrin is also approved by the FDA for food and pharmaceutical work for being bacteria resistant and easy to clean. Carbon steel is only used in applications where a nickel or zinc coating can be applied for corrosion resistance as rust particles in medical supplies can lead to tetanus infections. Tungsten carbide is also a material in the manufacturing process, but it is usually utilized as a jig or locator, rather than a material component of the industrial supplies.Metalworking in ProductionThe bulk of the medical supply industry focuses on medical instruments such as disposable syringes. The production of syringes, as a prime example, is done via assembly line. Conveyor belts, chain link drive systems, and motors are the main industrial supplies used in mass assembly and are similar to most other manufacturing processes. Leveling devices and vibration control keep machinery stable and their operation precise while roller rails and beds move finished products to packaging operations.During the actual manufacturing process, the metal syringe tips are produced from molten or softened surgical or stainless steel. The hot metal is drawn through a secure die block and then rolled into a continuous, hollow wire and cut in a blanking die to form the needle head. The barrels and plungers are made from plastics that are injection molded. The entire assembly is secured with workholding industrial supplies for final assembly of the needle head, barrel, and safety cap.This example shows the array of industrial supplies, from power transmission to dies to workholding and molders, needed to produce one tool in the medical supply industry.Workholding and Quality AssuranceHigh precision work such as that done in the medical supply industry requires complex industrial supplies for workholding and measurement. Tolerances are extremely stringent and it is easy to imagine why when the final product is a syringe head or a catheter that has to work within the human body. Stainless steel is the preferred workholding material; otherwise rigid plastics are used where steel would deform materials.Precision instruments including electronic calipers, digital micrometers, and microscopes are all utilized in the quality control process to ensure product specifications are met. A central CAD library is maintained with the specifications and tolerances used in quality control. Industrial supplies such as jigs, locators, block sets, and edge finders are all used to set and operate tooling machinery for proper operation.The medical supply industry is large and robust enough to really utilize all types of industrial products with the help of a CAD library. Nearly every category of industrial products is represented, from manual controls for the operators, to metalworking and tooling components and material handling for mass production. The strict requirements for pharmaceutical and medical use demand high quality metalworking supplies and raw materials.