Medical Device Manufacturing and Plastics
Medical device companies are in the news due to the health care reform attempts in Congress. The future of payments and how medical equipment and devices are used may be affected in some ways; however, the usefulness of plastic in the medical industry is unquestioned.
The health care industry as a whole would be substantially different without the large amount of plastic equipment used today. Today most patient procedures use syringes, tubes, fluid bags, bed coverings, endoscopic instruments, intravenous products, and plastic thermometers. Add in all the pill boxes and bottles and testing equipment and CPAP machines, and you can see that medicine would be less effective without plastic, not to mention sterile.
The plastic medical device business is one of the bright spots among industries. There are over 6500 medical technology companies in the U.S. today. They are overwhelmingly small with less than 50 employees. Yet the output is a sizable $38 billion.
The plastic medical device industry offers excellent jobs with an average salary of $84,000 annually and exports over $44 billion in goods[i]. The direct impact on jobs is 519,000 employees. It is a healthy sector and is growing rapidly. While California is not so business friendly, it still has the largest number of medical device companies in the U.S.[ii]
U.S. medical device companies are respected globally for their high technology and constant innovations. The research and development budgets and investment is double the average for all U.S. manufacturers. Its competitive advantage comes from other industry leadership such as microelectronics, instrumentation, biotechnology, and software development. Increases in revenue topped 10 percent in 2016, especially among the smaller companies[iii].
The medical device industry not only provides very positive economic benefits for the country, it produces products that increase the health care quality of its citizens. New developments, remedies, and procedures generally use plastic injection molded products to do these wonderful things.
The plastics industry likewise must keep up with the various processes and expertise to join plastics to electronics, instrumentation, and exciting new technologies such as neurostimulators, stent technologies, biomarkers, robotic assistance, and implantable devices. The future is a long way from where we were a few decades ago. Many can simply remember the M*A*S*H TV shows to get a glimpse back into medicine as it was in the 1950s.
Blood was contained in glass bottles, that if dropped might have meant the death of the recipient. Today modern operation rooms have pliable plastic blood bags, which are never open to contamination. Sterile single use plastic syringes and sanitary intravenous tubes take the place of glass and rubber that were many times reused. Plastic gloves protect both caregivers and patients from poorly washed hands. Today we have a variety of implantable medical devices such as pacemakers and even artificial hearts[iv]. The real doctors that served in Korea would certainly look back at Korea and be amazed by what has been accomplished in a half century due to plastics.
Today plastics have penetrated many areas of medical devices. According to the U.S. government Web site Selectusa.gov, several subsectors exist in the industry[v]:
- Surgical and medical instruments: Includes anesthesia apparatuses, orthopedic instruments, optical diagnostic apparatuses, blood transfusion devices, syringes, hypodermic needles, and catheters.
- Surgical appliances and supplies: Includes artificial joints and limbs, stents, orthopedic appliances, surgical dressings, disposable surgical drapes, hydrotherapy appliances, surgical kits, rubber medical and surgical gloves, and wheelchairs.
- Dental equipment and supplies: Includes equipment, instruments, and supplies used by dentists, dental hygienists, and laboratories. Specific products include dental hand instruments, plaster, drills, amalgams, cements, sterilizers, and dental chairs.
- Electro-medical equipment: Includes a variety of powered devices, such as pacemakers, patient-monitoring systems, MRI machines, diagnostic imaging equipment (including informatics equipment), and ultrasonic scanning devices.
- Irradiation apparatuses: Includes X-ray devices and other diagnostic imaging, as well as computed tomography equipment.
Microdyne Plastics was founded in 1975 as a micro-molder, thus the name Microdyne. We started doing very small moldings for growing electronics and automotive industries. This expertise was perfect for the emerging medical device business. We added a clean room for sterile applications and have had a hand in designing with our customers many new and innovative medical devices over the years. One such device was a “cap” which helped brain surgeons place electrodes in the brain accurately for various treatments.
We stay abreast of new developments in the medical device plastic molding business. This includes selection of various techniques and processes to build complex products, join plastics and other materials, and selection of the best materials for the application, while being mindful of the costs of tooling. The joining method depends on the material used as well as design.
It is important to manage the pre-design, design, tool building, manufacturing, and post-manufacturing processes for the high quality needed for most medical applications. Microdyne participates and guides the OEM instrument partner through the plastic injection process to get the final product produced to the specifications.
The future will bring new opportunities. New plastics will repel bacteria, deliver vaccines and dissolve in the body[vi]. 3-D printing is creating new design opportunities by allowing inexpensive production in sample quantities for testing. Designs can be customized for individual needs and produced in a quantity of one.
Innovations built in plastic will continue to evolve, reducing costs while increasing patient comfort and care. Microdyne Plastics will continue to be a part of the process that moves these wonderful innovations forward.
If you sell plastic medical supplies or instruments with an upcoming project, send us a note.
health care would be unthinkable without plastic medical products that we are inclined to take as a given. Heart valves, intravenous blood bags, disposable syringes and the like are all created with the help of plastics.
When a company adds a new plastic part or product that needs to be unique, each of these three obstacles must be overcome in tandem with each other. It’s no small task, but fortunately, the custom plastic manufacturing specialist can guide you through the maze of decisions.
Microdyne Plastics has worked closely with the inventors and designers of micro-precision plastic medical devices and components. Precision medical devices we manufacture may fall into one of these broad categories:
- Invasive or implanted
[ii] Plastics Today, Norbert Sparrow, “There’s no debate about the medical devise industry’s value to the U.S. economy.” https://www.plasticstoday.com/medical/there-s-no-debate-about-medical-device-industry-s-value-us-economy/150217097557208
[iv] Plastics Make It Possible; Plastic Innovations Continue to Revolutionize Medical Care, https://www.plasticsmakeitpossible.com/whats-new-cool/healthcare/plastic-innovations-continue-to-revolutionize-medical-care/
[vi] Plastics Make It Possible; Plastic Innovations Continue to Revolutionize Medical Care, https://www.plasticsmakeitpossible.com/whats-new-cool/healthcare/plastic-innovations-continue-to-revolutionize-medical-care/
US Department of Commerce, Medical Technology Spotlight, Overview, www.selectusa.gov  Plastics Today, Norbert Sparrow, “There’s no debate about the medical devise industry’s value to the U.S. economy.” https://www.plasticstoday.com/medical/there-s-no-debate-about-medical-device-industry-s-value-us-economy/150217097557208  U.S. Department of Commerce, Medical Technology Spotlight, Overview, www.selectusa.gov  Plastics Make It Possible; Plastic Innovations Continue to Revolutionize Medical Care, https://www.plasticsmakeitpossible.com/whats-new-cool/healthcare/plastic-innovations-continue-to-revolutionize-medical-care/  U.S. Department of Commerce, Medical Technology Spotlight, Overview, www.selectusa.gov  Plastics Make It Possible; Plastic Innovations Continue to Revolutionize Medical Care, https://www.plasticsmakeitpossible.com/whats-new-cool/healthcare/plastic-innovations-continue-to-revolutionize-medical-care/