MD&M West Trade show Feb. 7-9, 2023

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MEDICAL DEVICE SILVER PLATING

ProPlate’s dedicated new product development team supports new medical device projects from concept through commericialization through our proven process roadmap.

ProPlate® has a library of solutions for a wide range of parts and industries. We are always pleased to take on new challenging projects and expand our Medical Device Silver Plating capabilities.

Medical Device silver plating bipolar forceps masked

Medical devices and equipment…

…often have specifications of functional metal coatings for enhanced performance, such as anti-microbial or thermally conductive properties. Due to medical device components typically having complex geometries combined with porous base materials, a coating or selective coating may be needed to result in surface uniformity and lubricity.

ProPlate® continues to be an industry-leading electroplating supplier for the medical device, equipment, and instrument manufacturing markets. Continuing to develop engineered plating solutions to advance medical technology, assist medical professionals, and improve patient outcomes is ProPlate’s® core competency. To work with ProPlate® on your medical component plating project, Contact Us Today.

ProPlate® has plating processes and quality systems that are proactively designed to meet the stringent requirements of the FDA and ISO-13485 standards. Repeatability, reliability, traceability, and performance all have to be maintained routinely to the highest standards of our OEM customers. We strive to be on the front end of a design before the production phase with all of our medical device manufacturing industry customers.

Our robust metallizing processes are thoroughly designed and maintained to ensure the highest quality standards. Medical Device Quality System: ISO 13485:2016 Certified

Silver Electroplating for Medical Device Components & Instruments

Silver plating is often a selected metal finish option in the medical device and equipment manufacturing industry. Although GoldRhodium, and Palladium finishes can present high-performance options in many cases, Silver offers lower-cost performance-enhancing properties depending on the functionality.

Silver and selective silver plating are commonly specified metals for electrical conductivity, thermal conductivity, thermal compression bonding, weld-ability, and antimicrobial properties. ProPlate® is an industry-leading expert in the silver plating (matte, semi-bright, and bright) of medical device components.

Photo of technician using guidewire
medical device silver plated bipolar forceps

​Benefits of Selecting Silver Plating for Medical Devices

Silver possesses several beneficial attributes, making it one of the most favorable metal finishes for medical device components. Silver is highly ductile, making it great for shape-memory devices such as Nitinol (Ni-Ti) and other high-precision medical instruments. Due to its semi-precious nature, Silver offers excellent corrosion resistance. However, Silver can tarnish when exposed to sulfur-bearing compounds. Silver sulfide formation needs to be considered when designing a Silver electroplated medical component. It is essential to note that tarnished Silver still conducts the same as Silver that is not tarnished. Silver is the highest electrically and thermally conductive metal, and it exhibits the highest level of optical reflectivity in the visible range. 

Gold vs Silver

Gold plating offers the highest level of reflectivity in the IR (Infrared) range. Due to silvers superior electrical and thermal conductivity it is frequently used in medical electronics applications, such as electrosurgical and energy based devices. 99.9% pure, matte silver electroplating also provides outstanding solder-ability, wire bonding and thermo-compression bonding. Silver plating is advantageous for medical device components largely due to its antimicrobial and antibacterial characteristics. It is the lightest weight of the precious metals group, making it ideal for micro components. Lastly, silver plating renders a surface lubricious which is useful especially for high temperature applications that are critical to exhibit anti-galling and anti-seizing attributes. 

gold and silver plated medical device parts

ProPlate® partners with industry-leading medical technology companies around the world who share our core values; Innovative, Collaborative, Critical Thinking, Driven, Quality Minded, and Reputable.

Common Silver Plating Applications in Medical Devices & Instruments

Manufacturing electrosurgical handheld devices and energy-based therapy devices often require Silver plating or selective Silver plating for high electrical and thermal conductivity. One specific example of electrosurgical instruments that benefit from Silver electroplating processes is Silver bipolar forceps. Bipolar forceps are meant to perform desiccation and coagulation through an electrical current, resulting in the occlusion of blood vessels and the halting of bleeding. This electrical current is fired through the tips of the bipolar forceps requiring a metal finish to complete the thermal conductivity, and additionally, offer low thermal spread not to compromise the surrounding tissue while imparting anti-tissue-sticking attributes. Silver-plated electrodes used in electro-surgery and cautery pencils are also similar applications to the bipolar forceps, such as Silver plating for microwave and RF ablation devices.

Silver’s excellent electrical conductivity and corrosion resistance make it a practical lower-cost Gold plating alternative for medical devices and machinery high-tech electrical components like contact pins, connectors, springs, bus bars, battery contacts, switches, RF amplifiers, and RF coils. There are many uses for high-power RF energy in a wide array of medical applications. Each component requires a slightly different plating specification regarding the RF power device needs. Specific examples of Silver and Gold plating used in medical devices are electrically small RF coil arrays used in low-field MRI machines, NFC-HF, and wireless power transfer.

Minimally invasive RF ablation devices for applications like non-surgical RF ablation of tumors use radio-frequency to create heat, at a specified temperature, in a precise location, for a certain period, resulting in the termination of undesirable conditions and cancerous tissue. Traditionally for this procedure, a Silver or Gold plated RF ablation probe is inserted directly into the target tissue, and a range of numerous, small electrodes are positioned and deployed at the end of the probe into the undesired tissue. Another Gold and Silver plated component utilized in this device is a thermocouple. Thermocouples are inside the ends of the RF devices electrodes and are used to detect and monitor the tissue temperature. The power of the device electrodes is calibrated until the target ablation temperature is reached, resulting in the target tissue being eradicated. Often this delivery method for an RF ablation device is a catheter or laparoscopic energy-based instrument is inserted into the body.

Silver is relatively inexpensive and can reduce wasteful power consumption by 90% in many electrical conductor applications, increasing battery life in portable, handheld, and wearable medical devices. Some examples might be continuous glucose monitoring devices, wearable insulin pumps, medical diagnostic products, cardiac monitoring, infant monitoring, and pain management device.

Silver, Gold, and Copper electroplating offer extremely high electrical conductivity, Silver with the highest conductivity and can be plated continuously or selectively to the surface of a medical device component to carry a current. This process can also be applied to some polymers for Silver plated current-conducting paths through ProPlate’s plating metal to plastics, Meta-Poly® innovation.

Medical equipment and devices that require RF amplifiers, radiofrequency coils, antennas, helix feeds, connectors, and coaxial cables that carry the currents also benefit from Silver plating. An MRI machine is an example of medical equipment that needs Silver or Gold plating for these components. The device reliability of an MRI is critically vital to the machine’s life and the manufacturer’s reputation. The mean time to failure for MRI equipment has to be more than 30,000 hours, and electroplating quality plays a crucial role in the durability and performance of the system.

MRI machines also house a superconducting magnet, an electromagnet made from coils of superconducting wire and bitter plates (bitter solenoids), which are often manufactured from Silver plated Copper wires, plates, and coils. During use, these components must be cooled to cryogenic temperatures, sometimes with liquid nitrogen. The Silver plated components can conduct much stronger electric currents than usual at their superconducting state, producing extreme magnetic fields. Superconducting magnets are used in medical MRI systems and high-tech scientific equipment such as mass spectrometers, AMS spectrometers, TIMS spectrometers, NMR spectrometers, gas chromatographs, liquid chromatographs, and various particle accelerators.

Silver offers excellent high-temperature lubricity making it an excellent coating for anti-galling and anti-seizing medical device and equipment applications like high-temperature nuts, metal shims, seals, gaskets, and bearing surfaces. Silver plating provides high lubricity surfaces for these applications and thermal compression bonding. It is also a favorable metal surface finish for welding and solderability of components in medical manufacturing.

Silver and Gold plating is often used to produce high-tech lasers, including medical lasers that can be used for imaging and wound cauterization. There are many applications for lasers in medical devices, such as laser scalpels, fractional photothermolysis devices, Lasik eye surgery systems, laser skin resurfacing devices, semiconductor laser arrays, and other electrical applications that require spectral reflectivity or infrared reflectivity. Silver and Gold plating is used for its inherent high reflectivity when used in laser manufacturing. Standard components within a laser assembly that are Silver or Gold electroplated are IR tubes, cylinders, Copper sleeves, optical waveguides, light barriers, and cooling blocks.

Applications where medical components have device associated infection risks, can benefit from Silver plating’s intrinsic antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. Silver targets several areas of a cell or micro-organism, so the bacteria cannot adapt quickly to resist the Silver, reducing bacterial adhesion to the surface of the components. Silver is considered nontoxic, and the FDA cleared an endotracheal polymer tube with a thin Silver coating to reduce the risk of ventilator-associated pneumonia in 2007. Some other examples of medical devices that may benefit from Silver plating are catheters and related devices, obturators, cannulas, needles, surgical instruments, and other devices that may come in contact with tissue prone to causing infections.

Silver-plated Copper core mandrels with PTFE etched liner are also used in catheter manufacturing. Silver-plated medical-grade mandrel allows braid manufacturers to design thinner walls, reduce assembly time, minimize the risk of adhesion issues, and help to maintain precise inner diameter dimensions.

Silver plating of plastics has a variety of medical device component applications as well. ProPlate® has developed a proprietary process for electroplating polymers selectively that meets medical device manufacturing requirements. A traditional plating on plastic process utilizes toxic chromic acid to get adhesion with the substrate. However, through Meta-Poly®, selective metal coating onto polymers, ProPlate® can successfully adhere metal to plastic without toxic processes. Silver plating on polymer substrates can be used in catheter devices like extruded tubing, balloon catheters, stents, and catheter tips. It can be harnessed to function as electrical circuits by plating selectively and creating current-conducting paths onto a polymer substrate.​

Contact us to request information about our plating and metal finishing services

We Are Dedicated to Partnering With Our Customers

Professional Plating Inc. has specialized in engineered coating solutions for the medical industry for more than 35 years. The company works with customers from the prototype development stage through production to create custom electroplating solutions designed for unique requirements. ProPlate® has pioneered selective precious metal plating innovations for medical devices and applications such as balloon catheters, radiopaque markers, and catheter-based components and continues to be an industry-leading electroplater.

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