WIRE NEWS WN November 2017 - Page 8

Laser Wire Stripping for Medical Device Manufacturing Applications Laser wire stripping was developed by NASA in the 1970s as part of the Space Shuttle program. The technology made it possible to use smaller sized wires with thinner insulations, without risk of the damage that can be caused by traditional mechanical wire stripping methods. Laser wire stripping technology was commercialized in the 1990s and was initially used for aerospace and defense applications. Laser wire stripping then grew significantly when the consumer electronics market exploded as lasers became the only stripping solution for the tiny data cables found in laptops, mobile phones and other consumer electronics products. Another large industry that has adopted laser wire stripping methods, and for good reason, is high-end medical device manufacturing. The Benefits of Laser Stripping Using laser light to remove insulation or coating layers from electrical wires, catheters and other medical devices is now the norm. This is understandable as there are many benefits to using a laser stripping process for medical device manufacturing. The most important is the highly repeatable quality that is inherent to the process. When using a CO₂ laser to strip polymer insulation, from a wire conductor for example, the laser energy is readily absorbed by the insulation but highly reflected by the underlying metal conductor. Since the conductor reflects the laser light, there is no risk of it getting damaged during the stripping process. With laser stripping, there are no limits to how small of a wire can be stripped and no matter the wire size, there remains no risk of damage to the conductor. 8 WIRE NEWS November 2017 Another benefit is that laser stripping machines can strip round, out-of-round, flat ribbon or any other shape of wire or cable. Stripping geometries include end stripping, window stripping, slitting or complete area ablation. The process is also very user-friendly. There are no blades to change or consumables to replace in contrast to mechanical stripping methods. The process is non-contact, so there are no maintenance or wear items that need to be replaced frequently. Laser stripping machines are also very versatile. There are many different laser types on the market, each having a different wavelength. The idea is to select a laser with a wavelength and power that is readily absorbed by the layer you want to remove (strip) yet gets strongly reflected from the underlying layer. Laser strippers can be used in a semi-automatic process where the operator presents the material to be stripped to the machine. This is typically used for end stripping and can be used for single ends or a batch at a time. In addition, the laser stripper can also be fully integrated with a downstream cut & strip machine to measure, cut and strip in a fully automatic process. Types of Medical Applications for Laser Stripping In medical device manufacturing, selecting the correct wires and cables for the job and properly processing them is of extreme importance. In some cases, it can be the difference between life and death for a patient. Laser wire stripping can ensure higher quality processing for several different medical applications.