Cleanroom built motors power bionic implants

| Cleanrooms and Contamination Control

Clean, biocompatible manufacturing facilities give life to implantable motors

Jonathan Newell discovers how maxon motor is building a new clean facility in Switzerland for building tiny motors for medical implants.

It’s hard to imagine a more ideal setting than the geographical heart of Switzerland with its cuckoo-clock villages, mountain lakes and Alpine fresh air to build a state-of-the-art biocompatible cleanroom facility for building miniature motors that do more than just run with the precision of a Swiss watch but will keep life ticking as part of the latest generation of medical implants.

It was in this setting that maxon motor chose to build such a facility as part of an innovation centre it is building at its headquarters in the village of Sachseln. Stretching from the existing buildings down to the shore of Lake Sarnen, the new facility will provide space for the research, development and production of medical drives resulting in a floor area of over 2,000 square metres which doubles the existing space available to the company’s Medical department.

Miniature implantable motors

maxon motor will manufacture its smallest motors in the facility, some of which will have a thickness of only 4 millimeters. These motors are used in applications such as insulin pumps, medication delivery systems and surgical robots. In order to meet the stringent quality demands in the medical field, the production area will be equipped with cleanrooms, including a biocompatible room.

I asked William Mason, maxon motor UK’s MD, about the impact of the new facility on the healthcare industry and he explained that this is a large part of the company’s work with half of maxon motor’s turnover coming from the medical sector, much of which relates to implantable devices.

“The technology is growing and the smaller the motor, the more you can do with it but as the size decreases, the need to control contamination becomes more critical and so we decided to invest in new facilities to cater for these technological demands,” he explained.

Mason expanded on this by explaining that rapid innovation in the industry is creating implantable applications that require components that cannot fail without having life critical implications.

Clean biocompatible manufacturing

Currently, maxon motor has an ISO Class 8 cleanroom at its medical facility in Switzerland and the innovation centre will house another such cleanroom as well as one that meets ISO Class 7 requirements. The Class 7 cleanroom will also be equipped to fulfill the hygiene conditions for biocompatibility and it will be here that the company will assemble its implantable range of motors.

Starting in February, the construction project will last over a year with a scheduled availability date of the summer of 2018. Costing around 30 million Swiss Francs, the innovation centre will generate employment for around 350 workers and occupy an area of around 2,300 square meters. The project includes landscaping to meet local environmental requirements and will be powered using sustainable energy generation with the installation of solar power equipment that can generate 180 megawatt hours of electricity per year.

Sustainable growth

The construction of the innovation centre is part of maxon motor’s sustainable growth plan which focuses on research and development, medical technology, complete drive systems in the shape of mechatronics and the use of Industry 4.0 connected manufacturing technology.

Industry 4.0 is at the heart of the concept of building the new facility as a smart factory, enabling the manufacturing of maxon products to benefit from improved flexibility, speed and efficiency through the use of automation and information technologies.

“The new Innovation Centre is a move to strengthen our Swiss headquarters in order to become stronger internationally”, said maxon CEO Eugen Elmiger.

Jonathan Newell
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