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A high-tech eye for surgeons

Bayer MaterialScience AG : 02 August, 2004  (Company News)
If vital and diseased tissue is closely interwoven, even surgeons with the best eyesight will have difficulty distinguishing the good from the bad. Operating microscopes therefore play a crucial role in the operating room.
On the one hand, they have to deliver top performance in a highly demanding environment and, on the other, they must have a lightweight, handy design so that surgeons have their hands free for their work. High-performance plastics like the lightweight, robust and design-friendly Baydur® 110 polyurethane system from Bayer MaterialScience AG are ideal for use in this field. The M520 F40 operating microscope from Leica Microsystems, Heerbrugg, Switzerland, is a perfect example.

Nowadays it is impossible to imagine microsurgery without operating microscopes like this very latest Leica product. First and foremost, they provide the surgeon with an essential three-dimensional view of the operating field and illuminate it thoroughly at the same time. In addition to excellent optical characteristics, it goes without saying that the microscope must always be accessible but never in the way during demanding and detailed work, e.g. under the roof of the skull.

Consequently, these instruments are equipped with highly sophisticated balancing systems that ensure high-precision movement of the complex optical system without manual involvement on the part of the surgeon.

The arm which the microscope moves on must therefore be as light as possible. That's why Leica utilizes Baydur® 110 polyurethane from Bayer MaterialScience for all six housing components in its new M520 F40 operating microscope, which is manufactured by the Swiss polyurethane processor Puratech GmbH of Altendorf. The largest of these elements measures a substantial 905 x 370 x 160 mm. Baydur® 110 molded parts have thin walls, making them lightweight while still extremely stiff. These properties enabled the Leica engineers to avoid using a sheet metal or aluminum framework, which would have made the arm significantly heavier.

Another considerable advantage of Baydur® 110 is the excellent flowability of the liquid polyurethane components. By that the Baydur® mixture is capable of reaching remote corners of the mold at low pressure, generally under 10 bar. This means that even complex product geometries such as ribbing, apertures or undercuts can be realized easily in a single step. Because of their made-to-measure, complex form, the thin-walled yet high-strength housings from Altendorf used for the Leica microscope are able to offer complete and reliable protection to the electronics and delicate mechanical components.

The optimized design also creates space where it matters, as the microscope is more manageable than the “traditional” metal models. As sharp corners and edges are avoided in the design, the operating microscope is easy to clean and disinfect, which is a welcome bonus. This is facilitated by the good coatability and excellent resistance that Baydur® 110 demonstrates to a number of different chemicals.

In addition to all these material-related benefits, Baydur® 110 offers advantages when it comes to cost-effective production. Puratech GmbH manufactures the microscope's six polyurethane components cost-effectively in multiple aluminum molds. Molded-in assembly aids facilitate construction of the instrument. A far shorter manufacturing time than is required for sheet metal and aluminum casting is another important benefit. These factors are crucial for producing operating microscopes cost-effectively and for adapting them quickly to new design specifications.
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