The medical and health care industries have been getting a lot of attention recently, and for good reason. With everything that’s going on in the world, it’s more important than ever to have an efficient, reliable and affordable supply chain for medical tools and equipment. This includes the choice of what materials you use.
The use of aluminum is already widespread in the medical field thanks to its many advantages as a material. With so many aluminum alloys available and new high performance alloys being developed, there’s no doubt that you can find the right material for your medical application or product.
Today we’re going to look at how aluminum is used in hospitals and doctors’ offices and which alloys are especially popular.
What are the advantages of aluminum in the healthcare industry?
No matter what industry you’re in, the reliability of your products is essential, but very few industries have requirements as demanding as those of the medical field. Whether you’re dealing with medical tools, equipment or surgical devices, failure is not an option. Even simple office furniture in a doctor’s office needs to be clean and hygienic.
That’s why aluminum is in such high demand in the healthcare industry. Very few materials can compete with aluminum in terms of its amazing combination of performance, reliability, safety and sustainability.
First, let’s look at one of its most obvious benefits: aluminum’s strength. This is an important consideration for components in surgical tools such as clamps, saws, scalpels and the like.
Of course, aluminum is not as strong as certain other materials, such as stainless steel, but few materials can compete with aluminum on a strength-to-weight ratio. When it comes to medical equipment every ounce matters. Aluminum’s strength, light weight and durability make it the perfect metal for equipment when reliability is a primary consideration.
Another important consideration for medical equipment is corrosion resistance. You are probably well aware that aluminum is known for being resistant to corrosion under normal conditions, but medical settings are certainly not normal. Equipment will be exposed to highly corrosive environments every day.
Just as damaging is the cleaning, disinfection and sterilization that equipment must undergo daily in hospitals and doctors’ offices. The cleaning agents used often have a high alkaline content, and ordinary aluminum alloys may not be durable enough. This is when you will need to turn to special, high performance alloys.
Another benefit of aluminum is its availability in many types of finishes which can improve the corrosion resistance and increase the durability of the metal. Aluminum also offers greater biocompatibility than many other materials, meaning it’s safe for limited internal use. Aluminum is also highly recyclable, an attractive option considering that a lot of medical devices and equipment are disposable.
Which types of medical equipment are likely to feature aluminum?
While aluminum is a great and adaptable material, it isn’t right for every application. So which types of medical equipment are most likely to feature aluminum?
Surgical tools such as scalpels and clamps will often have some aluminum components. Dental tools also incorporate aluminum. Even when the working component of the device is made from another metal, such as a titanium or stainless steel scalpel blade, the handle or grip might be made from aluminum.
Trays, containers and organizers will often be made from aluminum. You might not think that a carrying case needs to be especially durable, but when considering medical gear used in an emergency or field settings, including combat and disaster response locations, you quickly realize that the containers made to carry your medical devices are just as important as the instruments themselves in order to maintain durability and hygiene.
A great deal of hospital equipment is made from aluminum. This might be everything from gurneys and rolling carts to highly sensitive medical gear such as imaging equipment, ventilators and heart monitors. The aluminum might be part of the most delicate components or the housing enclosure. Either way, aluminum plays an essential role in making sure that this gear is reliable and safe.
Even equipment that you might not think of as aluminum often has some aluminum in it. A stethoscope is likely to have tubes made of aluminum alloys. Electronic devices and high-tech solutions are following the same trends as mobile phones and tablets in terms of miniaturization. Just like your phone and computer, many of the components in digital medical devices are made from aluminum.
Which alloys are most common in medical equipment?
Some of the most common aluminum alloys in a medical setting include 6061, 6063 and 3003. These popular alloys are not only strong and corrosion resistant, but they are also biocompatible. You might find 6061 in everything from oxygen tanks, electrical fittings and valves. 6063 might be used in many of the extruded parts you find in a hospital or clinic.
Of course, in highly specialized medical equipment, you’re likely to find expensive, high performance alloys that have been specially developed for such uses. Just as important are the advances being made with surface coatings and anodizing that increase the protection of the material. This can make the difference between an aluminum alloy being appropriate for a medical device or not.
Your Technical Services Supplier
Whether your building expensive and sensitive medical equipment or just want a metal part that’s going to last, aluminum is a great option. At Clinton Aluminum, our team of knowledgeable experts has the professional know how to help our clients find just the right material.
Contact one of our friendly customer service representatives today to learn more.