We know how to control the blast process. SYNEO is an expert at controlling feed rates for precise wire and tube processing. Their Engineering team took our blasting technology, incorporated it into their machine design, and created the Accu-Blast CRS100 Automated Microblasting System, which provides precise and automated media ablation for coated wires and tubes.
We sat down and talked with Crew Feighery at SYNEO to learn more about the design of this machine and the results of our collaboration.
First, tell us about SYNEO.
SYNEO is a vertically integrated solutions provider for the medical device and electronics manufacturing industries. On the medical side, we have a line of standardized manufacturing equipment to support the production of minimally invasive medical devices (catheters and guidewires). We are proud to manufacture the world’s sharpest catheter and surgical punches for catheters and human tissue! Our systems are capable of tube-cutting, hole-drilling, grinding, laser marking and cutting, cleaning and surface texturing. The Accu-Blast, which cleans and textures, incorporates Comco’s micro-precision sandblasting technology.
In addition to our standardized equipment, we have a full staff of mechanical, electrical, and software engineers to support the customization of equipment, and we provide contract manufacturing services for our customers in our ISO-certified cleanroom.
What application brought SYNEO to Comco?
The SYNEO Accu-Blast CRS100 was originally developed to selectively remove sections of coating from the surface of guidewire and hypotubes. This coating, or jacketing as it is sometimes called, is typically PTFE, PEBAX, or polyurethane. Often, it must often be removed along sections of the part, usually at the tips, to allow access to the underlying component.
Coating removed from tip of guidewire
Application opportunities have expanded since the initial development for coating removal. The Accu-Blast System has also proven effective at removing oxide coating from NiTi wires, roughening the surfaces of metal components, and roughening the surfaces of polymers to promote better bond adhesion.
Our team had little-to-no experience with micro-precision sandblasting prior to developing our first integrated Accu-Blast system. We find Comco to be an excellent partner, as they have a wealth of knowledge on the process and an excellent applications lab that turns around samples quickly with detailed reports and tooling suggestions.
What are the benefits of using the Accu-Blast versus a manual process?
Increased quality and cost savings. From a quality standpoint, there are some things that machines are generally better suited to handle, like precise positioning and consistent motion control. These also happen to be critical parameters for MicroBlasting. Blast duration directly correlates with material removal. If you move the part out of the blast stream too quickly, you may not remove the desired amount of material. If feed-rate varies, then coating removal is uneven and the resulting surface finishes flunctuate part-to-part. The SYNEO Accu-Blast CRS100 automatically controls the positions, speeds, accelerations, and blast times through the Ring Nozzle.
Click the video to see the SYNEO Accu-Blast CRS100 in action.
From a cost savings standpoint, the improved yields have been the biggest benefit for our customers. This automated system achieves a level of consistency and repeatability that cannot be achieved manually. It features a profilometer and a laser micrometer. The Accu-Blast is able to inspect 100% of parts that pass through the system to ensure all are up to spec. If one part is out of spec, it is automatically rejected and sent into a failed-parts bin. If several parts fail in a row (a user-defined parameter), the machine stops automatically and informs the operator of the issue. This ensures that you don’t end up with an entire lot of material which is out of spec. Full automation, including inline roughness inspection (Ra), OD measurement, and pass/fail binning allows an operator to be re-deployed to other manufacturing areas while the system processes parts unattended.
What other technologies or methods were considered?
For selective coating removal, SYNEO also supplies lasers, but lasers can be slower and more cost prohibitive for removing the coating from some parts. For surface roughening, there is nothing more suitable that MicroBlasting. MicroBlasting was also an obvious choice for coating removal and surface roughening because it is simple, repeatable, and cost-effective.
What makes a SYNEO/Comco solution a better option?
For precision blasting of wire or hypotube components, which need 360° of coating removal or surface roughening, there is no better solution than the Accu-Blast. Comco’s Ring Nozzle provides an even distribution of media around the part, while the SYNEO feed and control systems handle the speeds, positions, and dwell time along the length of the material.
How was Comco helpful during integration and throughout the process?
Every interaction we have had with Comco has been an absolute pleasure. From Sales, Engineering, Applications, and Customer service—they were always friendly, knowledgeable, and willing to help. This has led to a great partnership between SYNEO and Comco which we look forward to continuing for many years to come.
How are the systems working for the end-users?
The Accu-Blast systems have been running in the field for quite a few years now, and customers love the precision and accuracy they provide when compared against antiquated manual processes. As some customers’ product demands increased, we sold duplicate systems for the same application. Overall, this has proved to be an excellent, scalable, standard solution for the processing of wires as well as plastic and metal tubes.