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Synthetic Gems Make Precision Possible

OEMs that rigorously manage the quality of their suppliers' products and services stand to benefit from improved supplier performance.

July 1, 2007

3 Min Read
Synthetic Gems Make Precision Possible

Originally Published MPMN July/August 2007


Synthetic Gems Make Precision Possible

Shana Leonard


Ruby and sapphire orifices are suited for flow control applications.

Diamonds may be a girl's best friend, but ruby and sapphire can help keep her alive. Ruby and sapphire have a significant presence in the jewelry industry and are valued for their vibrant colors. But there's more to these materials than just a pretty package—synthetic ruby and sapphire are employed in numerous medical applications. Realizing the versatility of these jewels, Bird Precision (Waltham, MA) has positioned itself in the market as having the only precision glass jewel manufacturing plant in the United States.

Established in 1913 as a supplier of small ruby and sapphire bearings to the watch industry, Bird Precision adapted its skills over time to serve the medical market, among various others.

“The same equipment we used for making and mounting bearings is used for mounting the orifices for medical [applications],” says Paul Baillio, the company's vice president of sales. “We have specialized equipment that will take the little ruby and sapphire pieces and mount them into metals; it was an easy transition.”

The transition to serving the medical industry has primarily centered on flow control applications. Included in the company's offerings are standard ruby and sapphire orifices for oxygen and anesthesia valves. Bird Precision discovered that its products were suited for such applications since they require materials that do not flash out, outgas, or oxidize. Plus, the jewels enable control over the delivery of small amounts of oxygen in precise doses.

In addition to gas valves, the company supplies ultraclean orifices and nozzles for the chip and implantable device markets. Nonthrombogenic, clean, and precise, ruby and sapphire are incorporated into implants in such parts as shut-off valves, pumping systems, and wire feedthroughs. Desirable properties of the materials include abrasive resistance that is five times that of carbide, zero porosity, high-temperature tolerance, chemical resistance, and hardness.

Standardization of products has been a priority for the company; it now offers three specific orifice series dependent on whether the application is high or low pressure. Orifice and filter inserts are offered in sizes ranging from 0.0004 to 0.081 in. in more than 150 distinct sizes. Flow rates are available at less than 1 sccm of dry air.

“What we do is supply a complete product, so not only can you buy an orifice with the exact flow rate that you want, but we can also package it with a filter and a stainless-steel fitting,” Baillio says. “We have a complete machine facility here.” The company also provides Swagelok, Parker, Smc, and Value Plastic orifice and filter retrofits.

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