January 12, 2010
A fluoroscopic image shows highly visible nitinol stents, thanks to VisTa tantalum radiopaque coating.
Traditionally, accurate internal device placement has relied on radiopaque markers to guide doctors during medical procedures. However, because markers do not provide complete visibility, device orientation can be difficult, if not impossible, to determine. The motto may as well be: Now you see 'em, now you don't. But Isoflux Biomed (Rochester, NY) aims to overcome this limitation--achieving unhindered device visibility by means of its radiopaque coatings.
"Isoflux Inc., the parent company of Isoflux Biomed, was founded in 1993, building its primary business around developing equipment and processes for physical vapor deposition coatings," comments Margy Lydon, the company's manager of business development. Boasting many feathers in its cap, Isoflux has developed coatings for a range of industrial applications, including consumer goods offered by a Fortune 500 Company and longer-lasting cannons for the U.S. Army. It has even provided gold-film coatings on glass cylinders for NASA, a step in the process of producing x-ray mirrors capable of making astrophysical measurements in an orbiting observatory.
But there's always room for expansion. "The Biomed division was formed to focus on the development of thin-film coatings for medical device applications," Lydon remarks. "In that capacity, we have developed customized inorganic coatings and plasma surface treatments for medical devices, offering coatings that provide such properties as radiopacity, lubricity, and corrosion and wear resistance."
Developed for a range of medical device applications, the company's coatings can enable OEMs to make proprietary advancements in several key areas, according to Lydon. From orthopedics to drug delivery, they can improve biocompatibility, enhance cell growth, promote osseointegration, and extend the life of biomedical devices by reducing friction and wear.
"At Isoflux Biomed, we can produce coatings and surfaces with features that range between tens and hundreds of nanometers in size and between fractions of a micron to several microns in thickness," explains Lydon. "We can produce these features--which have valuable biomedical applications--on a variety of substrates in the specific quantities needed for both R&D and full-scale production." Among its offerings, the company provides a highly oriented crystalline-structure tantalum coating with features averaging approximately 150 nm in size and a less highly oriented crystalline tantalum coating with features averaging approximately 300 nm in size. "Our VisTa tantalum radiopaque coating dramatically improves visualization of devices under fluoroscopy," Lydon says. "The entire surface of a device can be coated with it, resulting in complete visibility--a clear advantage over radiopaque markers."
In addition to its tantalum coatings, the company offers a titanium nitride coating designed to produce surface features with an average size of approximately 75 nm and a titanium coating with variegated surface features ranging in size from tens to hundreds of nanometers. It also provides a drug-delivery platform consisting of an inorganic coating that allows drugs to be directly loaded into the porous surface structures without the need for polymer carriers, according to Lydon.
The company's coatings are deposited using a patented cylindrical magnetron sputtering cathode technology that provides uniform coatings and surface treatments for complex 3-D shapes. This technology, Lydon notes, achieves more-consistent conditions than other processes used for surface engineering and material deposition. In addition, the company says that it can control the parameters of the process to engineer surfaces with superior hardness, lubricity, and other characteristics that have important applications in the biomedical field. It also claims that its symmetrical, hollow-cylinder magnetrons provide reliable performance in high-volume manufacturing environments because they use fewer parts than conventional multicathode planar systems.
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