Diamond possesses outstanding material properties. Especially the high mechanical stability in combination with the high thermal conductivity and the low coefficient of friction makes diamond an attractive material for many applications.. In the past 7 years, novel CVD-processes for diamond growth have been developed and optimized, resulting in the fabrication of polycrystalline and fine grained diamond films of high mechanical strength. Furthermore, the recent progress in plasma structuring of diamond films, allows to fabricate diamond parts of complex shape and micron resolution. As a first product, diamond scalpels for eye and microsurgery, were introduced into the market in 2001. Modern surgical methods require sharp micro cutting tools. In order to decrease the recovery times of patients, there's a trend towards ambulatory surgical techniques. However, these treatments require less traumatic wounds. Especially in the field of microsurgery, like eye- and neurosurgery, the demand of ultra sharp cutting tools is therefore continuously increasing. A first major step towards this trend was the introduction of diamond keratomes for eye surgery, made from natural gem stones approx. 35 years ago. Since diamond is the hardest of all known materials and has outstanding mechanical properties, it was possible to fabricate micro cutting tools having an outstanding and long lasting sharpness.
The transfer of the research results into a stable and reliable production will be described. An overview of the market for cutting tools for micro surgery will be given. The novel fabrication method, based on CVD diamond deposition and plasma structuring techniques, will be discussed and advantages of the new fabrication method in comparison to conventional fabrication methods, including market aspects, will be given. The next generation of diamond products, which are still under development, will be presented.