MicroMIM Simplifies Life Science's Smallest Components

Today’s product designs for medical equipment require smaller and smaller components that are extremely durable and meet rigorous tolerance specs. Minimally invasive components deliver huge patient care advantages by shrinking the size of devices ranging from minimally invasive biopsy cutters to catheters. As advancements in minimally invasive surgery continue, biomedical engineers will continue to demand reliable, high-precision components with ever-decreasing physical dimensions and complex design structures.

Metal alloy components continue to be called upon to meet these rapidly evolving needs, but traditional manufacturing techniques struggle with shrinking dimensions and intricate structures. Using machine tools to fabricate small components is expensive, difficult and time consuming. Even more significant are the issues machine tools have in producing large numbers of small parts with consistent tolerance quality.

Micro-metal injection molding (MicroMIM) is the solution to these issues. It delivers the highest manufacturing quality while meeting specifications for extremely small components with complex geometries. MicroMIM also creates production efficiencies, yielding highly consistent production runs and a lower cost per part.

Specifically Designed for the Tightest Tolerances

MicroMIM technology was developed to meet requirements for metal components with extremely small size specifications. While the average mass of a conventional MIM component is 15-20 grams, MicroMIM is defined as the molding of components that are less than 1 gram or have critical features that are less than 100 microns. Some current MicroMIM parts are as small as a few tenths of a gram.

At this micro scale, tight tolerances and complex geometries are almost impossible to achieve in a production environment with standard machining technology. In addition to variability in quality, the machining cycle times are long and the costs are high, both for unique tooling and metal alloy scrap.

MicroMIM Components

MicroMIM is currently being used to facilitate the production of extremely small, complex-shaped metal components with outstanding mechanical properties. When implemented with well-designed molds, material choices, and mold flow characteristics, this manufacturing method creates production efficiencies and results in little wasted material. It offers a huge leap in component design freedom by eliminating the inherent restrictions of a machining approach and ultimately yields highly consistent production runs with a lower cost per part. 

Additionally, MicroMIM produces micro-scale medical device components with much greater feature definition, smoother surfaces and superior quality than can be achieved using machining tools. A further benefit is the elimination of weld lines that impact product quality. These advantages enable lifescience OEMs to implement advanced engineering concepts and achieve consistently high levels of product quality.

Today’s MicroMIM medical equipment applications include:

Micro Components Produced at Scale

In addition to expanding design engineering freedom, MicroMIM delivers major business advantages. Because it is a highly repeatable process, with consistent results, production runs can ramp up quickly to support critical new product introductions. This is in stark contrast to machine tool production, where each individual component has a statistically significant likelihood of unacceptable dimension variations. The batch production of micro-components also facilitates assembly flexibility for the final devices where they are used.

Cost savings with MicroMIM give additional support to profitability. Traditional manufacturing requires high up-front investments in tooling and fixturing to produce parts with tight tolerances. MicroMIM is a cost effective alternative, with lower set-up costs as well as a lower marginal cost-per-piece during production. MicroMIM’s reliable product quality during production runs also drastically reduces manufacturing scrap, driving further overall cost reductions.

Get Ahead of the Cutting Edge

As stated, further developments in medical device technology are coming and quickly. Incorporating MicroMIM into sustainable supply portfolios now can give life science OEMs a leg up when the next cutting edge designs hit the market. Read our MIM design guide to learn more about the MIM process and to determine if your components are a good fit for this technology.