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The Role of Specialty Metals in the Medical Industry

Specialty metals have been a vital part of the medical industry, specifically in the development of medical devices. From the most basic diagnostic guide wires to the most advanced body implants, these metals are unstoppable in proving themselves medically useful.

Stainless Steel

Over the years, stainless steel has been the most popular metal used to make medical devices. Obviously, it is the top alloy of choice of most design engineers, thanks to its low cost, wide variety of forms and finishes, and corrosion-resistant properties.


Titanium is another popular and highly versatile metal used to make medical devices. Just like stainless steel, it does not corrode and it connects perfectly with human bone, causing less negative reactions than other metals. The process that allows natural bone and tissue to fully attach to a titanium implant is known as osseointegration. It is a staple in the medical manufacturing business as it is used to make a huge variety of products, from neurostimulation instruments to orthopedic rods, pins and plates, and of course, heart implants.


Medical device manufacturers have shown considerable and interest in niobium in the last few years. The metal is usually used in pacemakers are other similar devices because of its physiological inertness. Niobium treated with sodium hydroide is a suitable alternative for internal medical applications, as the process allows the metal to form a porous layer which aids osseointegration.


Tantalum has been used in the medical device industry for over four decades, particularly as a catheter plastic compounding additive and in the manufacture of diagnostic marker bands. Its corrosion resistance and high ductility make it a great choice for wire-shaped applications, such as implants. It is also preferred for its good dielectric properties, as well as for being easy to weld.


Nitinol is a nickel-titanium alloy (at least 51% Ni) that can get superelastic as a response to applied stress. Shape memory gives the metal the ability to return to its original shape when heated over its transformation temperature. This extraordinary property of nitinol, on top of its being chemically and physiologically compatible with the human body, makes it a favorite among medical device engineers and designers.


Finally, in recent years, the medical industry appears to have changed its perspective on copper, even conducting more and more research into the metal and its alloys. Copper used to be off limits for most medical uses because of its thrombogenic (bleeding) risks, but it has developed a new following in the device community. The reason for this change is the fact that the metal, as long as it is properly shielded, can be a good carrier of signals to diagnostic tools and small implants. Companies behind the manufacture and processing of copper for medical devices usually make the shielded metal wire or strips with their own dedicated equipment for the purpose of maintaining superior quality and preventing cross contamination.

Overwhelmed by the Complexity of Options? This May Help

Overwhelmed by the Complexity of Options? This May Help

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