As medical devices become increasingly complex, the number of components and processes that go into their development and production has risen correspondingly - resulting in convoluted and complicated supply chains. Manufacturers with the ability to work flexibly and to cooperate closely with engineers to ensure a smooth development process offer significant advantages.
These are capabilities that Bob Boldig, the president of medical component manufacturer Custom Wire Technologies (CWT), believes are vital. "We try to stay in tune with what our customers are asking us for, and we try to have materials available so we can quickly turn around prototypes," Boldig says. "Often, the concept of the design isn't what the final design is going to be - it's an iterative process. So we try to have a multitude of different materials available that we can make products from relatively quickly, we can then get more iterations to the end customer."
The company specialises in medical wire coiling and grinding for devices such as reinforced tubing for catheters and cannulas, and offers a wide range of material options, including alloys, precious metals, refractory metals and nitinol. The latter is an alloy of nickel and titanium and is of value to the industry for its elastic shape-memory properties, and it is being increasingly used in catheter reinforcement wires.
CWT is able to coil wire and wind wire as small as 0.001mm, and produce unifilar and multifilar coils - multiple wires together for use in multisensor and multisignal internal monitoring devices.
Grinding capabilities allow the production of orthopedic pins, guidewires and Kirschner wires, and CWT offers value-added services. Finishing options include the application of laser markings, such as identifying marks and depth bands, as well as welding, PTFE coatings, passivation and electropolishing.
"We have the capability to do more things than just process wire," Boldig explains. "For a guide wire, for instance, we can grind the core wire, we can coil the coil that goes over the top of it, we can laser weld or plasma weld or solder the assembly together, and package it in a finished pouch - the only thing we do not do is sterilisation." This multifunctionality is a boon to original equipment manufacturers, allowing their supply chain to be substantially simplified. "That's very important to people that they can come to CWT and get pretty much a finished device - from ground core, all the way through," Boldig says.
The company's experience allows valuable collaboration in the development of devices. "We've done this for going on 20 years so, and we understand what it takes to make these types of things," Boldig says. "We can consult with the design engineers that are enquiring and tell them the reasonable characteristics of a coil, so they don't get themselves painted into a corner from a design standpoint."
The company offers custom specifications, such as short and long-length coils, closed-end coils with the ends ground flat, and variations in pitch and tension.
CWT's focus is on further refining the skills at which it already excels. "We've recently added laser-marking capabilities, and we've enhanced our nitinol shape setting departments," Boldig says. "We're trying to build and expand our core competence, which is coiling and now grinding, and our ability to make a finished or a close-tofinished device or assembly - to get better at the things we're in the business to do," he concludes.