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Zwick’s Alan Thomas explaining to Medical Plastics News’s Gareth Pickering the Zwick PrecisionLine 200N material testing machine and typical applications in the medical sector.
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The Zwick PrecisionLine material testing machine incorporating laser extensometry, testing stent wire.
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Close up of a stent being inserted into the zwickiLine 2.5 kN material testing machine, measuring the radial compression force and the elastic recovery of stents.
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The AllroundLine 5kN Materials Testing Machine, investigating the sliding force of catheters.
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Examination of pen systems and auto injectors.
The week-long event at the impressive facility, nestled deep in the picturesque city of Ulm in the south of Germany, invites the great and the good to view the impressive range of testing and inspection products, from static testing machines, fatigue testing systems, hardness testers and pendulum impact testers.
For customers in the medical sector, the technologies were impressive. Among the displays was fatigue testing equipment for dental implants and multi-level bench testing machines for the examination of pen systems and auto injectors. The latter were examining the discharge time of the fluid that would be dispensed and also the needle exit length. Both critical factors for the millions of users of insulin pens the world over.
However, the two machines that stood out centred on minimally invasive device (MID) technology. Stent insertion techniques and technology are always impressive. The process of delivering a catheter—a fine, flexible, hollow tube—with a small inflatable balloon at its tip is passed into an artery in either your groin or your arm. The catheter is guided up to the heart and into a coronary artery until its tip reaches a narrow or blocked section. The balloon is then gently inflated so that it squashes the fatty plaques—or deposits—against the artery wall, widening the artery and allowing the blood to flow more easily.
It’s a regular procedure with tens of thousands people every year receiving this. The two Zwick machines investigate the sliding force of catheters and the determination of the maximum radial compression force and the elastic recovery of stents.
The first of these machines (recently acquired by Cook Medical in Ireland) is a horizontal benchtop testing machine which investigates the insertion of a catheter into the human body in similar conditions. The bath of water encasing the device is heated to 37°C and the catheter is inserted through the series of capillaries simulating the veins and arteries of the human body.
Measurements are then taken of the friction efficiency of the catheters as the machine simulates the catheter snaking its way around the complex bends and turns that are present in the body. It's impressive technology.
The second machine measures the radial compression force and the elastic recovery of stents. In MID technology, getting the stent to the blocked section of the artery through the angioplasty is only half the story. Will the stent do the business once it’s in situ?
The equipment tests what happens to the stent once placed. Does it collapse? Does it expand too much or too little? In addition, the test facility can be configured to test stents in an environment in order to replicate the human body.
Zwick Roell group's outlook was discussed during a press conference in the afternoon. The conference, delivered by chairman of the board, Dr Jan Stefan Roell, presented a bright future for the company founded in 1992, who also explained that the origin of the family owned business could be traced back many decades. Zwick have built the business on a policy of targeted business acquisition of smaller companies with mutually beneficial technologies. In addition to this the introduction of a modernisation solution that transforms outdated testing equipment and extends asset life to its product lines
Hearing Dr Jan Stefan Roell talk long term for the future of Zwick is refreshing. Indeed the company have bought most of the land around their facility in Ulm and it has acquired many of the roads from the local authority. In Dr Roell's own words “for the next generation of Zwick” this level of long term thinking is impressive and admirable. I suspect that we will hear some interesting news from Zwick on new acquisitions in 2014, but Dr Roell remained tight lipped when pressed on the details of these, although his smile gave away that it will be an announcement he can’t wait to make.
By Gareth Pickering, Ulm, Germany, October, 2013.