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Medical technology

These Smooth Surfaces are More than just Beautiful

| Editor: Janina Seit

Specialising in medical technology, Rero AG treats the surfaces of metallic components to achieve special technical and optical properties.

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More than just smooth: Surface treatment provides additional technological properties for components in medical, process and drive technology.
( Source: Rero AG )

Due to special demands on their physical and chemical properties, only a few metallic materials – notably titanium, stainless steels and cobalt-chrome alloys – are used in medical technology. In addition, the surfaces of the finished components must often be coated or otherwise treated to meet special requirements. The latter include chemical resistance, roughness and optical effects. Rero AG in Waldenburg, northern Switzerland, specialises in high-quality surface treatment.

Highly Qualified Service Provider

Heinrich Tschopp founded the company in 1882, initially to gild watches. Even back then, the owners focused on the specialist training required for metal processing and coating. To this day, the company’s success is still determined by its high professional standards and the correct assessment of technical and economic developments.

Since its foundation Rero has been family-run, and is now in its fifth generation. The company continues to focus on high-quality services for the surface treatment of metals across the entire spectrum of the metalworking industry. Rero is currently one of the leading service providers in the field of surface technology in Switzerland, and offers a wide range of services, particularly in aluminium anodising.

Anodising boosts the chemical and mechanical resistance of aluminium surfaces. It also improves the appearance of components made from this light metal. Rero’s palette of anodised colours is the most extensive from any supplier in Switzerland, Germany or Austria.

As well as anodising, the company provides surface treatment for components made from a range of materials and destined for a variety of industries. Among the latter are medical and electrical engineering, electronics, and mechanical engineering.

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A Partner in Medical Technology

Surfaces used in medical technology face special requirements. This applies in particular to instruments and components in contact with the human body. All devices and implants must be carefully deburred, cleaned, sterilised and packaged.

The experts at Rero offer a wide range of machining methods for this purpose. Halil Cebeci, Head of Sales and Marketing, reports: “Electrochemical polishing is a particularly suitable process for medical instruments of various types. For more than 40 years we have been using optimised processes to give stainless steel a smooth surface. This completely removes burrs, for example, which remain after machining. This is particularly important in hard-to-reach areas such as undercuts and holes, or the cutting of drills.”

For medical devices made of stainless steel, surfaces must also be passivated to make them resistant to corrosion. This process takes advantage of the fact that chromium, used as an alloying element in stainless steel, reacts with oxygen to form chemically resistant chromium oxide. Electropolishing stainless steel creates a chromium-rich surface layer that is simultaneously oxidised.

The smooth finish created by electropolishing significantly reduces the tendency for biological tissue to adhere to surfaces. This simplifies the process of cleaning and sterilising medical instruments. At the same time, the passivated surfaces are much more resistant to corrosion.

Depending on the dimensions and geometry of the components, Rero can process anything from a handful to several hundred workpieces at the same time. As Halil Cebeci reports, this flexibility enables the company to offer high-quality surface treatment at attractive prices.

“Consider Surface Treatment in Product and Production Planning”

Halil Cebeci, who has more than 25 years of experience in surface technology, explains: “To manufacture medical devices requires extensive knowledge of materials technology, production processes and also considerations of the costs and availability of materials. In my experience, the surface is often neglected.”

“However, in the end it is the surface in particular that determines whether a device or component will have the desired properties and achieve a long service life. This is why it is especially advantageous and rewarding for our clients to use our experience and know-how in their design, construction and production planning.”

To pass its know-how on to potential customers, Rero offers customer workshops in Europe and the USA. Many people come to these events, Halil Cebeci says, and benefit greatly from what they learn there.

Driving Innovation

Further development of existing processes is important for Rero, as Halil Cebeci emphasises: “In our opinion, developing new coatings for instruments and devices in aseptic environments is a worthwhile approach for the future. For example, our copper or silver coatings could prove suitable. Copper and silver have a germicidal effect. For such projects we work together with well-known research institutes.”

To support future development Rero has a comprehensive staff of experienced employees. The company’s managers are keen to maintain and expand the reputation of Switzerland as a location for high-tech manufacturing. By 2020, further automation is planned in the form of two fully automatic machines: one for electroplating silver, the other to deposit combination coatings of nickel and tin. This will allow the company to meet increasing demand in electrical applications, especially for connectors and contacts.

At the same time, Rero will ensure high standards of occupational safety and environmental protection through improved exhaust air technology and wastewater treatment. The company is ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certified by SQS, and many of its processes for electropolishing and passivating stainless steels are validated to meet the stringent requirements of medical technology.

This article was first published by Schweizer MaschinenMarkt.

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