The slit lamp is to the ophthalmologist what the drill is to a dentist. The microscope enables close examination of the various areas of the eye with up to 40 times magnification, thus facilitating a holistic diagnosis and the detection of various eye disorders. Great technical demands are placed on the mechanical design of the medical device. Thomas Herberger, designer at A. R. C., : "One critical issue is the movement of the microscope arm. It must be very easy to move the lamp, high-precision guides are required for the axes – because every irregularity and every unwanted motion is magnified 40-fold to the ophthalmologist through the microscope. Small adjustments in position are vital, however, when the ophthalmologist is searching for haemorrhages on the retina, for example. At the same time, he must be able to securely fix the microscope arm. “
It was here that A. R. C., saw even more potential for improvement: "The slit lamps we tested either prioritised ease of operation or precision. But we wanted to offer both. "This was all the more difficult as the microscope is around 250 millimetres from the bearing of the moveable arm, thus forming a lever that makes it trickier to provide a precise and clearance-free bearing. In their search for the best possible bearing solution, the designers from A. came across R. C., igus® plain bearings made of high-performance plastics from the iglidur® range. These bearings have already proven their worth in other areas of medical technology. When feed movements are performed, bearings with the standard E 10 fit are, as a rule, sufficient. In the case of A. R. C. slit lamp, significantly higher requirements had to be met. Thomas Herberger: "Here, we are in a area that tests the limits of what can be produced mechanically. "This is why we worked together with igus® to produce a customised solution that ensures the best possible fit, with the smallest possible clearance while at the same time providing extremely smooth running and the possibility of fixing the setting. The combination of materials was aligned to this bearing solution.
The plain bearings from igus® used are components made of iglidur® J – the bearings supplied as bar stock are processed in the manufacture of A. R. C., which involves high precision tooling down to the nearest μm in order to obtain the desired fit. At the design stage, attention was paid to ensuring that the walls of the plastic plain bearings were as thin as possible in order to ensure the highest degree of dimensional stability. One factor that complicated matters was that A. R. C., puts openings in the bearings to make it possible to lead electrical cables through the split lamp arms.
Other areas of the split lamps made by A. also use R. C., plastic plain bearings from igus®, to the manufacturer's great satisfaction. Thomas Herberger: "In combination with the other materials used, stainless steel and brass, we achieve perfect results. For us, it is also important for the plain bearing material to be homogeneous so that the sliding properties are always identical even after the components have been machined. "Another important factor is silent motion and freedom from lubrication: ophthalmologists don't want to have to be greasing their equipment. Last but not least, service life is a central criterion because split lamps are often used all day, every day for decades.
The example impressively demonstrates that any reservations about using plastic bearings in medical equipment are misplaced. On the contrary, these bearings make it possible to achieve the highest level of precision, being able to dispense with lubricants is very beneficial for reasons of hygiene. The intense endurance tests performed by A. R. C., over months also provide evidence of the long service life of the precision bearing on the microscope arm. And the designers at A. R. C., are not only satisfied with the technical solution but also with the support provided by igus®. Thomas Herberger: "igus's medical equipment industry manager always gave us very good advice, we were provided with various sample bearings quickly and in a straightforward manner throughout the development period. “
Plastic grippers from igus® filaments. They come directly from the 3D printing process. Since 2015, igus® has been offering tribologically optimised 3D print filaments for 3D printing. If the CAD data of a product are available, it would be easy to manufacture it in an additive process.
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