The future of medical materials and medtech innovation



Len Czuba, President of Czuba Enterprises Inc. (Chicago), will host a panel discussion on the future of medical equipment at the upcoming co-located show PLASTEC and Medical design and manufacture (MD&M) Minneapolis Event. His company works with medical device OEMs, among others, to bring products from concept to production, with particular emphasis on material selection and processing. Plastics Today asked him about the impact that materials, and in particular plastics, have on advances in medical technology. He shares his thoughts below.

The roundtable is scheduled for October 31 at 2 p.m. at MedTech Central (booth 1347). Participants include Donna Bibber, vice president, Isometric Micro Molding; Jeremy Harris, Ph.D., Director of Research, Secant Group; and Jacqueline Anim, Senior Materials Engineer, PME Polymers & Plastics, Ethicon & OneMD, (J&J). PLASTEC / MD & M Minneapolis will be visiting the Minneapolis Convention Center on October 31 and November 1.

Plastics Today: One of the themes of your roundtable concerns advances in materials and technologies that drive medical innovation. Can you give some recent examples that illustrate this?

Len czuba

Len Czuba: I guess everyone working on new medical devices or new therapies is hoping to find the best material that can do the job at the lowest cost. It’s no surprise that some of the more expensive materials offer performance benefits that less expensive materials cannot achieve. Take, for example, polyether ether ketone, or PEEK. This unique material can be sterilized by any of the most commonly used sterilization methods and is virtually inert when exposed to solvents and any natural fluid present in the human body. These properties make it an ideal material for long-term implant devices, whether they are orthopedic material, such as bone pins, plates and screws, or components of a joint replacement device. For this reason, the variety of specialty products made with ketone polymers has grown considerably while the range of polymers offered for these applications has also expanded.

Another material that offers new properties are absorbable polymers used for non-permanent implant devices as well as drug delivery products, sensors and even soluble electronics. As the availability of materials increases in variety and properties, more and more new products are designed solely because of the unique properties that these materials bring to the product.

I’ve also worked with companies that design products around the interesting family of materials called polyethers, block-amides, or PEBAs, to take advantage of their high moisture permeability. Other medical devices or products use high barrier materials, such as fluoropolymers, to provide exactly the opposite performance: a high moisture barrier for certain products containing liquids that require storage without loss of weight by permeation. .

As the industry continues to grow along with the explosion of sensors, telecommunication devices, patient health monitoring devices and health maintenance devices, the need for good reliable materials is increasing with this growing market. evolution.

Plastics Today: What are some common mistakes medical device OEMs make when it comes to material selection? In one of your articles, you noted that the function of the product dictates the choice of materials. Can you expand?

Czuba: I think one of the biggest mistakes in material selection is settling for “old” materials that are already in the company’s products or that product engineers are used to using. Rather than finding the best hardware for the application, it’s easier to be content with what’s available that everyone already knows. I know this is a generalization, but engineers and device designers don’t always invest the time and energy to find the newest, best, and most suitable material for their new ones. products.

It takes time and resources to attend conferences and trade shows and meet companies offering the latest replacement of extrudable PVC or transparent injection moldable contact lens polymer. Too often I hear that medical device engineers can find almost anything they need online and by searching the Internet. While this research method can provide much of the information available, there is much to be learned by talking face to face with companies engaged in the development of new materials. Finding out what’s on the drawing board or in the labs and what’s going on in the new materials pipeline, then combining that with what design engineers need or would like from their wishlist can help suppliers and manufacturers. users of materials to get better and more interesting functional products.

Plastics Today: Are there any unmet needs in the medtech space that you think should be on the radar of medical device engineers and OEMs?

Czuba: I think the long-term goal of replacing phthalate-plasticized PVC with other transparent, flexible, biologically safe, steam-sterilizable (and possibly RF heat-sealable) materials that are in the same low-cost neighborhood as PVC is still one of the most important unmet needs of our industry. We have so many polymers that can offer the properties – or at least most of the properties – of flexible PVC but can’t come close to cost. The replacement of PVC, the main basic material in our industry, remains in my opinion one of the biggest unmet needs.

Another emerging need is for materials of all kinds across the spectrum of polymers that can be processed by some of the new additive manufacturing (AM) techniques. I should mention that I do not have complete expertise on this subject, but the speed at which parts can be produced and the breadth of AM equipment that is available and constantly evolving allows the production of production parts to be low volume or personalized medical devices that can be tailored to each patient. Whether it is a supportive cast for the child with muscular dystrophy who needs supportive appliances and braces, or a muscle building appliance that might give to a person who does not doesn’t have their own musculature a chance to walk or lift their arms, all of this is made possible through personalized products that adapt to their arms, legs and physique. The materials for these applications should be compatible with the equipment used in this new manufacturing technology.

Plastics Today: What do you hope participants take away from the roundtable?

Czuba: Well, as I mentioned above, many in our industry overlook opportunities to learn from other colleagues in the field. This roundtable will give attendees the opportunity to hear from subject matter experts from leading healthcare companies who are at the forefront of the latest new products being offered in the global healthcare market. Participants will hear what these vendors think, including:

  • What do these subject matter experts see on the horizon in the next five to ten years?
    • In materials,
    • In processing technologies,
    • And in medical devices?
  • Who are they following to stay ahead of the pack?
  • What trends do they see coming?
  • How important is the cost when it comes to new medical products?
  • How do these leaders stay on top of relevant news?

There will be a lot to think about at this panel discussion and, indeed, throughout the conference sessions and in the lounge. To find out more about the event, visit PLASTEC Where MD&M Minneapolis website.

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