Fuchs: Lubricant Specialists for Medical Applications


The constant increase in life-expectancy in industrial countries is leading to an ever greater demand for implants and medical appliances. As these implants may remain in the body for 15 years or longer and are subject to constant cyclic stresses, high demands are made on the quality of materials used as well as on their internal and external surface structures. High-tensile metals such as stainless steels, cobalt alloys and above all, titanium alloys but also special ceramics are used. All of these materials are difficult and costly to machine. Also light-weight magnesium will soon gain popularity as an absorbable implant material for medical applications. However, this material poses a challenge during machining because of the development of hydrogen when water-miscible cutting fluids are used.

Titanium and colbalt alloys along with stainless steels are often used in implants or surgical instruments such as scalpels, scissors etc. Bio-compatibility is the reason why just these three material groups are used. The difficulty with which these materials can be machined represents a significant cost factor which is becoming increasingly more important even in the medical sector. Fuchs Has gathered valuable know-how from various research and development projects in the aerospace industries which also focus on the material titanium. Its product portfolio includes a corresponding metalworking fluid for every process stage. Ranging from non-water-miscible to neat and from high-pressure lubricants to universal oils which satisfy the demands of hydraulic systems and machining processes, Fuchs can always offer the right product. Universal Oils were included in the product line with a view to contamination hazards.

Fuchs also has valuable expertise in the machining of ceramics – Only machined with processes that use non-geometrically defined cutting edges. Particularly in the case of grinding aluminium-oxide ceramics which are often used for the ball joints in artificial knee joints, the lubricant plays a decisive role. Research by the IOWA State University has shown that certain neat cutting fluids lead to the formation of AI(OH)3 (Aluminium Hydroxide) and (Me2SiO)5 (Cyclic Siloxanes) on ceramic surfaces which is easier to remove and also leads to significantly less sub-surface structural damage.

Fuchs and leading machine tool manufacturers have already gathered valuable and positive experience in this area with ‘Ecocut HFN 5W’. This white oil-based product is dermatologically highly compatible at the same time as offering good wetting, good flushing properties and low evaporation.

The use of Magnesium alloys as absorbable materials is still at the research stage. The absorption by the body of magnesium implants is also influenced by the geometry and the mechanical machining processes used. Such implants can be porous as well as solid. Fuchs has already gathered a great deal of experience in this field from the automotive industry and has already begun to develop suitable metalworking fluids for such implant materials. As magnesium hydroxide, any machining process with water-miscible metalworking fluids poses a particular challenge which Fuchs can control with specially-formulated products. As the formation of hydrogen increases due to the larger surface areas when porous magnesium implants are machined, Fuchs uses a special water miscible metalworking fluid which effectively inhibits hydrogen formation. Neat metalworking oils based on highly-refined mineral oils and synthetic esters can also be used.

In the field of chip-forming machining, the Minimum Quantity Lubrication concept is gaining acceptance, even for extremely-difficult-to-machine metals. The reduction in metalworking fluid consumption represents significant cost savings. Minimum Quantity Lubrication is particularly suitable for the drilling of holes in implant plates or for the micro-milling of the shape memory alloy Nitinol which displays very high adhesion forces. Both ‘Planto Mikro UNI’ (based on esters) and ‘Ecocut Mikro Plus 20’ (based on fatty alcohols) can be used. These products offer rapid bio-degradation, non-toxic and non-water polluting properties, good tool life and a neutral odour. Both can be used with internal and external 1- and 2-channel feed systems.

Fuchs also offers a range of cleaners for the optimum intermediate cleaning of surgical implants and instruments. The final cleaning of implants and surgical instruments at the end of the manufacturing process is of decisive importance. Even contamination in the ppm region would lead to serious complications. A stable process is vital to achieving the high quality standards which medical products have to fulfil.

For more information on the products in the Fuchs pharmaceutical lubricants range, including data sheets and pricing, speak to a member of our team.

Lube Hub HQ.
Courtesy of Fuchs Lubricants (UK), a subsidiary of Fuchs Petrolub AB.

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