Two-pole medical forceps are under development in Germany using an exciting new metal to ceramic co-molding process. Two-component plastic injection molding is widely used to mate dissimilar materials, such as polypropylene and thermoplastic elastomer. Co-molding has not worked well for powder materials, such as ceramic and metal, because of widely differing shrinkage rates, particularly in the post-mold sintering process used to remove binders. But researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems (IKTS) in Dresden, Germany have identified compatible feedstocks through simulation studies. They also say that particle density is critical in developing shrink-compatible powder feedstocks. In one of their most interesting projects, they have prototyped conductive forceps in which a metal layer conducts electricity and ceramics provide insulation. Current flows to a human body through one arm and returns through another. In currently used forceps, current flows into the patient’s body, and then back into the forceps. The purpose of the current is to cauterize tissue. The current entering the body is described as minimal. But the new technology would be even safer. The forceps are being tested now by various partners in Germany.
An in-depth survey of 700 current and future users of 3D printing holds few surprises, but results emphasize some major trends already in progress. Two standouts are the big growth in end-use parts and metal additive manufacturing (AM) most respondents expect.
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