Advanced fiber-reinforced materials are state-of-the-art in a number of applications in the aerospace sector as well as in the automotive industry and in the generation of renewable energy. They are up to 70 % lighter than metal or ceramic – but at the same time, they can withstand high levels of mechanical stress and are resistant to chemical influences. At Compamed, researchers from the Fraunhofer IPT in Aachen will be presenting the areas of application in medical engineering in which fiber-reinforced plastics look set to figure in the future.
Strong and pliable: Instruments for minimally invasive MRI procedures
Instruments for minimally invasive surgery are already being mass-produced from fiber-reinforced plastics using the micro-pullwinding process developed by the Fraunhofer IPT. This technique is used by the Fraunhofer IPT to produce three-layered micro-profiles with diameters well below 1 mm, which can be used in guide wires, cannulas and catheters. The required bending and torsional characteristics of the instruments can be adjusted continuously to match the area of application in hand using precision-positioned reinforcement fibers with no interruption to the mass production process. The suitability of these instruments for use in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an additional advantage: in contrast to metallic components, there is no occurrence of any spurious artefacts when these instruments are used.
The materials which can be transformed time and time again: Thermoplastic fiber-reinforced plastics
The researchers in Aachen are also developing methods and production systems geared to processing thermoplastic fiber composites for the manufacture of individually customizable medical products such as prostheses, implants or even wheelchairs. The resultant components can be reformed following the initial hardening process, thus ensuring that, unlike similar parts made of thermosetting materials, they can be adapted to suit individual requirements. Many of the thermoplastic matrix materials have previously been licensed for use in medical engineering and are therefore no longer subject to protracted licensing procedures.
Diverse range of manufacturing processes for customized mass production
The Fraunhofer IPT is also currently exploring the application of laser radiation in welding processes to bond multi-part components with complex structures securely together thereby completely eliminating the need to use noxious adhesives. The aim here is to enable processes already well-established in plastic-welding environments to be transferred to the manufacture of medical products.
The focus of laser-assisted tape-laying and winding technique developed at the Fraunhofer IPT is used to manufacture load-bearing structures from fiber-reinforced lightweight engineering materials in a process which is both resource and energy efficient.
The engineers from Aachen work closely with medical facilities and commercial medical technology providers in the drive to develop new manufacturing processes suitable for the mass production of customizable products as well as for the design and construction of fiber-reinforced components for medical engineering applications.
Dipl.-Ing. Alexander Brack
Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT
Phone +49 241 8904-355
This press release and some printable photographs can also be found on the internet under