The Role of Specialty Metals in the Medical Industry


Specialty metals have a long history with the medical industry, particularly in medical device development. From diagnostic guide wires to permanent body implants, these metals continue to prove their use in more and more ways.

Stainless Steel

Through the years, stainless steel has been the most widely used metal at in the medical device industry. It is obviously the alloy of choice for most design engineers, who know all of its benefits, including corrosion resistance, variety of forms and finishes, and  low cost.


Titanium is another popular and highly versatile metal used to make medical devices. Like stainless steel, it is corrosion-resistant and causes less negative reactions when connected to human bone, compared to other metals. Natural bone and tissue attaches to a titanium in a process called osseointegration. The metal is one of the staples of the medical device industry, and is commonly used to make a wide range of products, from heart implants to orthopedic rods, pins and plates.


Medical device manufacturers have shown considerable and interest in niobium in the last few years. The metal is usually used in pacemakers are other similar devices because of its physiological inertness. Treating niobium with sodium hydroxide gives it a porous layer that helps in the osseointegration process, making the metal a good option for internal medical applications. Learn more about metals at


Tantalum has been used for more than 40 years in the medical device industry, expecially in making diagnostic marker bands and as a catheter plastic compounding additive. It is also widely preferred for making implants and other shaped-wire applications because it is corrosion-resistant and highly ductile. It is also preferred for its good dielectric properties, as well as for being easy to weld, click here for more!


Nitinol is an alloy made of nickel and titanium (around 51% Ni) and can be superelastic when under applied stress. Shape memory refers to the metal’s ability to deform and recover its original shape when heated above its transformation temperature. Nitinol’s ability to withstand large strains, besides the fact that it is physiologically and chemically compatible with the human body, has made it one of the most sought after materials for medical device designers and engineers.


Lastly, the medical industry seems to have adjusted its position on copper and is actually funding more and more research to look into the metal and its allows. Copper used to be off limits for most medical uses because of its thrombogenic (bleeding) risks, but it has developed a new following in the device community. The reason for this change is the fact that the metal, as long as it is properly shielded, can be a good carrier of signals to diagnostic tools and small implants. Companies behind the manufacture and processing of copper for medical devices usually make the shielded metal wire or strips with their own dedicated equipment for the purpose of maintaining superior quality and preventing cross contamination.


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