Low-friction coating is critical on medical instruments, surgical devices, and tools including catheters and guide wires. Friction impedes the insertion process, causing a number of preventative problems like infection, pain, and discomfort and potentially even leading to malpractice suits. Except in specific situations in which a slippery insertion is undesirable, as when extreme control is needed over a device, a low-friction coating is becoming standard on many medical implements and devices. Also known as hydrophilic coatings because of their ability to attract and retain water molecules to enhance lubrication and slippery qualities, low friction coatings can be used on medical and surgical instruments as well as devices designed to be inserted internally.
Different low-friction coatings offer more or less lubricant qualities, which is why there are so many different types of coatings and treatments. IonGuard, Spi-Argent, Spi-Polymer, Spi-Met, Spi-Ceramic, Spi-Spectrum, and IonGlide are among the most common low-friction coatings used on medical and biotech equipment. Some of these coatings use ionic implantation methods. Others use PVD or IBAD low temperature application processes. The manufacturers need to understand the differences between low friction coatings to know the specific needs of the end user and what level or quality of lubrication might be needed. Several types of technical tests can be performed to create the ideal level of friction reduction. For example, a clamp can be used to pinch the item to test for lubricity. Static versus dynamic friction pull force tests can also help determine the level of lubricity that is created by the specific type of coating.
Low-friction coatings can be found in common household devices, too, the most popular of which is Polytetrafluoroethylene, used in the brand name Teflon. However, the biotech and medical supply industry needs a different set of standards to create low-friction coatings that are biocompatible, non-corrosive, and totally safe for internal use.