The pace of development for medical devices is high. Increasingly small, refined, and intricate solutions improve treatment options and minimise patient trauma by reducing the invasive nature of many procedures and drastically limiting recovery time. Medical devices require materials of the highest possible quality, and, as demand grows, manufacturers need to partner with material specialists as they look for ways to automate their production.

This is the role played by Sandvik, a manufacturer of ultra-fine precision medical wire that also collaborates with medical device manufacturers in the development of wire-based medical devices.

"Many customers that approach us today are looking for our help to come up with unique material configurations that help them either further automate their process, or solve a design related problem," explains Gary Davies, production unit manager at Sandvik. Sandvik's EXERA wire can be used for vascular therapy, in guide wires and pacing leads; in sensing solutions, such as thermal and glucose; and in stimulation therapy, for example, neurostimulation. Partnership with medical device manufacturers has led to the development of flexible leads with a high degree of strain relief that are capable of stimulating multiple nerves with the same transmitter, as well as composite wire configurations that combine steerable strength members with highly conductive signal-transmission materials.

Something that our customers like about working with us is that we can leverage a lot of different process capabilities to combine these properties into one product that we deliver. We can do all of those different process operations; it's a one-stop shop.

EXERA wire is available in a wide range of surface treatments. Single wire configurations can be electroplated with custom thicknesses of gold or nickel and provided with polymer, PTFE and multilayer coatings. Customised multifilar arrangements and cabled wire are available, and Sandvick also offers value-added coiling operations.

"The metal materials that are included in these devices can also take different forms," Davies adds. "It can be round wire, it can be a square wire or a rectangular profile, and there are a wide variety of different alloys that we tailor to the needs of this specific application."

The EXERA programme of alloys, forms, thicknesses, arrangements and coatings can be combined to match unique applications. Sandvik works with manufacturers as part of their research and development, and design team to make them are aware of the options available and together they develop a custom product. "Something that our customers like about working with us is that we can leverage a lot of different process capabilities to combine these properties into one product that we deliver," Davies says. "We can do all of those different process operations so they don't have an extended supply chain; it's a one-stop shop."

The diamond standard

Davies also stresses the high quality of EXERA wire, which is made with diamond dies by craftspeople of extensive experience. "It goes through all the rigours of the quality system that we have in place, and extra qualifications and validations on equipment and processes," he says.

As a facilitator helping medical device manufacturers conceive, refine, and define unique processes and products, Sandvik is at the cutting edge of health technology.

"It's an exciting field to be in," Davies says. "I have discussions with our customers, and I see all the great things that they're coming up with, and it's really motivating to be part of a supply team where we're helping to improve people's lives every day."