With medical science advancing and growing increasingly sophisticated, so must the technology that supports it.
Doctors, surgeons, and their fellow healthcare workers must have access and learn to operate highly tuned, top-performing equipment to provide the highest quality of care. This has never been more critical than today. The medical sector is not only facing extreme challenges with the current COVID-19 pandemic but is also struggling with an increasing global population that is aging due to a higher than ever life expectancy.
Hence, highly customized metal filter powders are in increasing demand for life-saving medical applications. These specialized materials are used in a variety of medical products, such as porous flow restrictors in ventilators to control oxygen flow and prevent clogs in the system. As the starting material, these powders need to be extremely consistent and precise in size to achieve a tailored and controlled range of end filtering properties. From coarse, gravel-like grains down to micron-sized powder with less than a tenth diameter of a human hair, different sized particles are crucial for different applications.
AMETEK Specialty Metal Products (SMP) produces filter powders using a highly refined water atomization technology to ensure the highest quality powder that meets the exact requirements of medical filter manufacturers and OEMs. The water atomization process provides the ability to produce bespoke powders in a wide variety of metals, from stainless steels to nickel and cobalt alloys. AMETEK SMP’s engineers tailor this process to form highly irregular shapes of powder grains that are critical for medical filter producers. A multitude of other shapes and morphologies can be produced including spherical materials used in Additive Manufacturing. The filtration powders produced by AMETEK SMP are then pressed and carefully shaped by the filter producers to offer precision assistance with flow control in "mission-critical” medical applications, such as ventilators.
According to Brad Richards, Product Manager for Powders based at the AMETEK SMP facility in Eighty Four, Pennsylvania, customers keep returning for the wide range of specifications that their metal powders can accommodate.
“We have a very comprehensive portfolio in terms of supplying any specialty or customized alloy powders that a medical or industrial producer might need for their filter grade powders. The primary materials that we make for medical powders are alloys of 316L and 17-4PH® stainless steel, as well as various nickel-based alloys,” Richards explains.
“We also have a very long legacy of producing filter powders, going back to the 1970s, when we were operating one of the very first water-atomized powder production plants. Our customers appreciate the quality of our filter grade products, the longevity of our operations, and, of course, our technical know-how.”
AMETEK SMP’s advanced manufacturing process involves several steps that each have an impact on the morphology of the finished product. Starting from the initial selection of raw materials to processing them into molten metal to water atomizing them into a fine powder, the team works to continuously improve and control the product’s particle size distribution (PSD) and ensure optimum particle shape for the individual job specification.
The business works with many filter customers who require very specific, tailored alloys for their applications, or extremely precise particle size distribution. More than 25 different sizes of filter powders are currently produced at Eighty Four, and many customers benefit from the flexibility to order bespoke size and shape specifications for their ultra-precise applications.
Another key advantage AMETEK SMP can offer are extremely short lead times. The facility has the capacity to fulfil urgent orders in as little as two or three days and more standard jobs in just a couple of weeks.
“Customers in the medical sector, by their very nature, often need to access materials at short notice, and they know that they can rely on us to deliver high quality filter powders very quickly,” said Richards. “When you’re talking about saving a life or working in the medical field, delivery times are critical, along with quality and performance of the materials in question.”.
More information about AMETEK Specialty Metal Products Eighty Four’s water-atomized filter powders for the medical sector is available at https://www.powderclad.com/applications/porous-filter-powders