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Medical devices see clean through new threaded inserts

14 April 2018

Fitsco Industries’ recently unveiled LiteFit plastic inserts have been attracting interest from a number of medical device manufacturers, according to the company.

Launched just a few months ago, the LiteFit threaded insert is a patent-pending new product, made in the UK from a type of plastic originally developed specifically for aerospace applications in the US. Amongst other attributes, the material is stated to be of “exceptional hardness”, says Fitsco CEO Philip Schofield, and offers design engineers the further advantages of lightness, durability and resistance to corrosion.

Ironically, it isn’t any of these attributes that has attracted attention from the medical market. For example, recent enquiries concerned both the manufacture of MRI scanners and also the patients being studied within them. In the latter case, the fact that the scanner can ‘see through’ the new Fitsco plastic inserts attracted interest because of their potential for use ‘in or on body’ applications in a variety of medical devices. 

A concurrent benefit, this time for the manufacturers of the scanners themselves, is the non-magnetic properties of the LiteFit material. This is seen as a key advantage in an application environment where the reduction of metal parts is of special value.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging machines (MRI scanners) are well known to many for their ability to provide medical staff with outstanding visual presentations of the chosen sections of the human body that is being examined, but the details provided can sometimes lack absolute clarity, due to a number of factors. In computed tomography (as in CT scanners), these variations are referred to as ‘artefacts’, a term applied to any systematic discrepancy between the CT numbers in the reconstructed image and the true attenuation coefficients of the object being studied. 

CT images are stated to be inherently more prone to these artefacts than conventional radiographs, because the image is reconstructed from somewhere in the region of a million independent measurements. There are said to be a number of causal factors behind the presence of these artefacts in scans, two of which are patient-based. One of them results from patient movement during the scan itself and the other is due to the presence of metallic materials or objects in or on the body of the patient being scanned.

The fact that these medical scanners and x-ray devices can ‘see through’ the plastic LiteFit threaded inserts is thus cited by Fitsco as a significant advantage to medical device designers and manufacturers. Additionally, for prosthetics or ‘in body’ devices, using LiteFit threaded inserts also obviates concerns about the potential material deterioration or degradation that may occur with metal inserts; and plastic inserts are lighter, too. 

“This really is a win-win-win situation” states Schofield. “Reducing the metal content in the scanning machines themselves is an opportunity being welcomed by the manufacturer we are currently in design discussions with. At the same time, using our new plastic inserts for medical devices worn either in or on the person being scanned allows better imaging to be provided to medical teams, with obvious advantages to patients as a direct result”. 

“Moreover, patients also benefit from something that is lighter and less likely to be affected by degradation. So, if they are required to wear prosthetics or have anything carried within them that requires secure mechanical threaded fastening, LiteFit can make a difference.”

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