Date: Jun 21, 2006 Author: Timothy O'Connor Source: (
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Imagine the difficulty of drilling a hole through the tip of a pen.
James Mann, a graduate student in Industrial Engineering, recently co-founded M4 Sciences, a company
that focuses on manufacturing biomedical components, which means drilling tiny holes through small parts.
They are also developing small-scale components similar to those found in a Swiss watch or swallowable
The length of the holes M4 Sciences must make is 500 times deeper than wide. When working with small
components like bone screws, which has a diameter of about a millimeter, Mann said drilling holes is hardly
a trivial task.
"Some of these components are so small they can be difficult to see with the eye," Mann said.
In order to overcome the difficulty of manufacturing such small parts, called micro/meso-mechanical
manufacturing, or M4, Mann is using a new technology called Modulation-Assisted Machining, or MAM.
"MAM, it turns out, is also an enabling technology that can be used to form nanostructure particulate metals
and alloys with controlled shape and size," Mann said. "(It's a) way to create nanostructure powdered metals
directly by machining." He said there was currently no commercial way to do this.
Mann, who holds a bachelor's and master's degree from Purdue's School of Aeronautics and Astronautics,
said the process would make it easier to make holes in difficult-to-machine alloys such as stainless steel and
titanium, which are commonly used for biomedical components like prosthetic limbs.
He said miniaturization was critical because the design space is limited in the human body.
"(We) want to be able to incorporate as many functional features and systems as possible into a limited
design space," said Mann.
One of the important aspects of M4 Sciences for Mann and his partner, co-founder Brain Gootee, is locating
the company in Indiana.
"Our strategic plan involves a collaborative relationship with Purdue University as a source, not only for
new technology development, but as a key resource for M4 Sciences to find new employees," Mann said