Laser Micromachining Is a Key Process in Medical Balloon Manufacturing

Medical balloons are critical medical devices that require the highest manufacturing precision and quality. Balloon catheters, for example, enable a wide variety of diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, including stent delivery, dilating vessels, and clearing blockages. Medical balloons continue to get smaller to meet the needs of minimally invasive medical procedures, but they must also be just as strong and easy to use. Lasers play a critical role in creating detailed, high-precision balloon features with no thermal damage to the surrounding material. 

Lasers remove material with micron-level precision, resulting in no physical contact with the materials. This allows lasers to create complex features that are difficult or impossible to do with standard machining methods. The absence of heat-affected zones (HAZ) makes laser processing ideal for sensitive balloon materials. Lasers also provide sterile shaping processes that can be used to customize component geometries to match various functions of the catheter.

Lasers are used in several ways to manufacture medical balloons:

Laser Ablation

Lasers can be programmed to ablate or “vaporize” material at the micron level to shape or texture medical balloon surfaces. For example, the surfaces of drug-eluting balloons can be shaped with lasers to create flow channels for drugs or to provide pathways for electrodes. Texturing can improve the performance of the coating on the balloon or the underlying surface. Lasers are also used to correct variable wall thickness or remove material to improve performance parameters, such as flexibility.

Laser Drilling

Micron-scale holes can be laser-drilled in a variety of patterns with the highest precision, without burrs or residual material that can plug holes. This is especially useful for balloon catheters, infusion catheters, and drug-delivery catheters, which rely on high densities of tiny laser-drilled holes to deliver drugs at a highly precise rate.

Quality Control Is Critical to Success

Medical balloon failure can severely impact a surgical procedure or harm the patient. Therefore they must meet all their performance standards and manufacturing tolerances. Laser Light uses the latest tools to ensure the highest quality, such as vision systems that perform automated in-line visual inspections to increase the efficiency of the processes. Our confocal laser scanning microscope is used for applications that require a 3D profile of parts to measure depth/height of the features. Depending on the project, a variety of stereo microscopes provide visual inspections. We also collaborate with our customers to validate new medical balloon designs and also provide first article inspection reports as required by their quality systems.