Oak Harbor, WA--Like a finely tuned surgical team, three companies joined forces to redesign a laparoscopic handle used in electrosurgery. As a result, surgeons who perform minimally invasive procedures can do so without fear of the instrument flexing and distorting.
Electroscope Inc. (Boulder, CO) wanted to redesign certain components of its Universal Active Electrode Monitoring System (AEM). In doing so, the company turned to Upchurch Scientific for help. The objective: re-engineering of the system's 5-mm laparoscopic handle.
Typically, surgeons have strong hands. This places a lot of load on the handle. "We needed a material that could provide enough strength and rigidity so that surgeons could squeeze it with a high amount of force and not have it flex or distort," says Mike Bailey, Upchurch sales manager.
Bailey found that material in PEEK(TM) (polyaryletherketone) polymer supplied by Victrex USA Inc. (West Chester, PA), a division of Victrex plc. Not only did the polymer provide the structural strength needed for repeated instrument use, it gave the handle enough impact strength to withstand being dropped on the floor.
In addition, the material resists repeated sterilization. "We found that PEEK can be sterilized beyond 200 autoclave cycles without the degradation that occurs with other materials," Bailey notes.
The material's dielectric strength also played a major role in the redesign. "Because the handle sees up to 3,000V, the material had to have a high dielectric constant," Bailey explains. "We selected PEEK because of its excellent electrical insulation properties."
Aesthetic appeal also factored into the handle's redesign. "The handle had to be consistent in color, smooth, and fully crystalline," says Bailey. "This is where our experience came in. We've been molding PEEK for more than 10 years, and we understand the material and what it takes to mold it well."
As an integral part of the project, Upchurch insert-molded several stainless steel parts into the polymer handle. "This is something that most other companies wouldn't touch," Bailey concludes.