Electropolishing & the Safety of Reusable Medical Devices | Able

Electropolishing & the Safety of Reusable Medical Devices

November 19, 2019
Electropolishing & the Safety of Reusable Medical Devices

In an era of increasing collaboration between medical device manufacturers and healthcare researchers and providers for “clean design,” electropolishing occupies a unique position as a bridge between design and infection control. 

As a process for dramatically improving the surface finish of metal parts, electropolishing is one of the last steps before a wide range of medical devices and surgical instruments become available on the market.

With the ability to create a finished metal surface with both pathogen and corrosion-resistant properties, electropolishing is a finishing process of choice in the medical device industry, where pathogen resistance and cleanability can be a matter of life and death.

Optimized Cleanability Starts with Design

The cleaning challenges of reusable medical devices are a persistent concern among the equipment research organization ECRI Institute’s annual list of Top 10 Health Technology Hazards. Design features that inhibit or resist the growth of organisms, along with designs that make devices easier to clean, are becoming the gold standard in the face of antibiotic-resistant bacteria like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), vancomycin-resistant Staphylococcus (VRSA) and more.

To mitigate the risks of pathogens, medical device engineers are increasingly turning to electropolishing – and design features that make the finishing process more effective – to optimize cleanability. Whether a tool is made of common or specialty stainless steel or metal alloys, electropolishing creates a the precise, ultraclean, corrosion-resistant and repeatable finish sought by medical device manufacturers. 

Elements and imperfections that trap bacteria, water, and other liquids can make devices more susceptible to pathogen growth – something that is often discovered when medical device components cannot be pre-cleaned and rinsed in a controlled and repeatable manner. Through careful design and electropolishing, the risk of contamination is significantly reduced.

The Advantages of Electropolishing for Cleanability

Using DC power and a blended chemical electrolyte bath to decrease roughness, electropolishing removes flaws from the surface of metal parts with microscopic precision and consistency. This includes eliminating burrs and other imperfections where pathogens can hide and creating a lower coefficient of friction on the surface, making it easier to clean.

Due to its ability to create a micro-smooth, corrosion-resistant and oxygen-rich surface that inhibits the growth of bacteria and reduces the risk of inflammatory and allergic reactions in patients, electropolishing is often used for implantable medical devices. Critical, reusable medical devices like implants require high-level disinfection (HLD) to eliminate all microorganisms in or on the device, a process made easier with electropolishing.

Put Finishing Expertise to Work in the Design Process for Safer Medical Devices

Over our 64-year history, Able has worked with numerous medical device OEMs to ensure a high-quality pathogen-resistant finish, and to suggest design changes that promote superior cleanability.

Device manufacturers can leverage Able’s expertise to incorporate small changes in design that make electropolishing not only more effective for improved cleanability, but also for durability and pathogen resistance.

With our “Finish First” methodology, Able can provide device manufacturers with recommendations for R&D, prototyping, and validation of manufacturing processes to ensure that parts are designed for optimal cleanability and performance.

Our philosophy centers on creating a better finish from the start, working closely with clients to achieve the optimal design for each product. 

To learn more about what electropolishing and the Able Finish First methodology can do for your products, give us a call or click on the link below.

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