Automatic surgical needle and suture loading machine

Package making – Methods – With contents treating

Reexamination Certificate

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Reexamination Certificate




The field of art to which this invention relates is machinery, more specifically, machinery for use in the manufacture, handling and packaging of surgical sutures and attached surgical needles.
Conventional surgical sutures having conventional surgical needles mounted to one or both ends are well known in the art. The manufacture of surgical suture and needle combinations often presents challenges to the production operation with regard to the handling and transfer of the product sequentially from one operation to another. Improper handling can result in damage to the surgical suture and or needles that can substantially impair performance in the field. In particular, needles and sutures can incur damage during packaging operations, in particular automated packaging operations. Automatic machinery for packaging surgical sutures having attached surgical needles is disclosed in commonly-assigned, co-pending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/387,782 filed on Mar. 13, 2003, the disclosure of which is incorporated by reference.
In a typical, conventional manufacturing production process, the feeding and handling of sutures is commonly done by human workers, using their eyesight to visually choose and isolate the product from a bundle, and their fingers, hands, and arms to manually pick up the product, separate it from the bundle, and place it in the next operation. This is tedious slow work, and may tend to cause repetitive motion injury if proper work methods are not followed. The manual nature of the work imposes a production speed restriction that causes inefficiency of the downstream-mechanized packaging operation. In addition, if appropriate care is not exercised and precautions not taken, needles and sutures can be inadvertently damaged while being handled.
There is a need in this art for novel machines and methods for handling surgical sutures and attached needles in automated manufacturing and packaging processes, such that handling is minimized along with the possibility for incurring handling-created defects.
It is an object of the present invention to provide a novel machine for handling and feeding surgical suture and attached needle combinations to an automated packaging machine, wherein handling of the needle suture combination is minimized, and the needle and suture are substantially protected from handling damage.
It is yet another aspect of the present invention to provide such a novel machine, which also automatically places the needle in a needle park of a suture tray package, while holding and protecting the suture as it is wound into a suture channel on the package.
Accordingly, a machine for handling and feeding surgical suture and attached needle combinations is disclosed. The machine has a frame having a top surface. A rail mounted to the top surface. A block is slidably mounted to the rail; the block has a pair of jaws for receiving a surgical needle mounted thereto, and the jaws are moveable with respect to each other. A storage disk is rotatably mounted to the frame. The disk has a top, a bottom and a side. There are first and second circumferential grooves in the side of the disk for receiving at least part of a length of a suture. A passage way in the side of the disk connects the grooves. A motion device is mounted to the top surface of the machine. A pair of placement is jaws mounted to the motion device for gripping a surgical needle, the jaws are moveable with respect to each other. A displacement shaft is movably mounted to the frame, such that the shaft is displaceable between a first position and a section position, and, a displacement member is rotatably mounted to a displacement shaft for engaging a suture to move the suture between the first groove and the second groove.
Yet another aspect of the present is a novel method of handling needle and suture combinations to feed them to a packaging machine using the novel feeding and handling machine of the present invention.
These and other aspects and advantages of the present invention will become more apparent from the following description and accompanying drawings

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