(Image courtesy of Resonetics, experts in laser micromachining for life sciences and medical device applications.)
As medical polymers continue to transform implantable devices, Glenn Ogura, vice president of market development for Resonetics, predicts advances in laser micromachining will drive innovation for polymer-based bioabsorbable stents, point-of-care testing and medical devices.
“New laser technologies have opened up the medical polymer markets,” Ogura explains. “We found the longer laser pulse widths would change the actual weight and material when we worked with drug-eluting stents or scaffolds. We would actually lose some of the material and drug.”
“Polymers, medical plastics, Teflon®, PTFE and any material that has fluorine content prove challenging to process,” he says. “There are ways to apply lasers, but it can be slow. Fluoropolymers often melt and it is difficult to achieve the feature size. In many cases, femtosecond lasers are really the only way we can work with some of these materials.”
Medical device designers and process engineers increasingly prefer medical polymers to conventional materials, such as metal and glass, because of the superior flexibility in the fabrication process.
Long used for medical packaging and equipment due to the light weight and low cost properties, both conventional medical polymers and bioresorbable polymers are now used for coronary stents, drug-eluting stents (DES), scaffolds and point of care diagnostics.
Medical Polymer Applications and Expertise
Running 50 different laser systems, 24 hours a day, six days a week, Resonetics’ applications work and expertise includes continuous glucose monitoring sensors, polymers, thin films, catheters and balloons, stents, guidewires and point of care cardiovascular, vascular and diabetes diagnostics.
“Femtosecond lasers now make these possible with more accuracy and faster cycle times,” states Ogura.
Founded in 1987, Resonetics offers a broad range of micromachining applications using a wide variety of excimer, CO2, DPSS, picosecond and femtosecond lasers.
After Ogura joined the team in 1998, the company shifted focus from telecom, microelectronics and semiconductors to specialize in polymers for life sciences, medical devices and diagnostics.
“We decided to really focus on one material and one industry,” he says. “Our Lightspeed ADL™ applications development lab offers prototyping services for our customers and once a solution is identified, we evolve the process to high volume manufacturing.”
Ogura recognizes the economic benefits of femtosecond lasers for his company and his customers. The extremely short, but powerful pulses of laser light can break the molecular bonds of nearly any material, even those that normally require ultraviolet (UV) light for bond breaking. Femtosecond athermal ablation enables precision features, tiny dimensions, superior surface qualities and intricate patterns in heat-sensitive polymers.
Ogura references glass, fused silica and quartz as other applications where any laser (excimer, continuous wave and even nanosecond or picosecond) that relies on thermal material removal could cause cracking and damage.
“Femtosecond lasers eliminate slag, debris and post processing steps. There are millions of polymer-based medical devices. Femtosecond lasers represent a viable way to produce them in high volume,” he concludes.
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About This Week's Expert:
Glenn Ogura leads the development of Resonetic’s life sciences business, leveraging his technical knowledge of laser micromachining and applying it to medical device and diagnostic applications. He previously served in product management and sales positions across the laser industry, designing excimer, CO2 and dye lasers as well as portable laser micromachining systems for scientific and industrial applications. Glenn also spent several years developing industrial laser solutions in Belgium and Germany. He graduated with honors from Queen’s University in Canada with a B.S.in Electrical Engineering.
Resonetics provides laser micromachining contract manufacturing services for medical device and diagnostic manufacturing and other applications requiring precision laser processing. Based in Nashua, New Hampshire, the company offers the world’s largest capacity for laser micromachining polymers in ultra-violet wavelengths, and its expertise with polymers up to 1mm thick and with features as small as one micron is unmatched.
Resonetics currently utilizes Raydiance femtosecond laser solutions in their Lightspeed ADL™ application development lab and high volume manufacturing lines. The company also designs, builds and services purpose-built laser workstations to meet specific customer needs. With more than 25 years of experience building systems and a dedicated development lab staffed with PhDs, optical scientists and automation experts, Resonetics delivers solutions for the most demanding polymer micromachining challenges.