Cost vs. Price in Medical Molding
Jason L. E. Meslin, senior industry manager, healthcare—thermoplastics for PolyOne Distribution, was a part of the staff written article, “Molders Address Biggest Device Issues.” He took time to present a full array of responses that were not able to be included in the article, so they are presented here.
Q: What features are most important to device designers to achieve through molding material selection?
Meslin: Applied physical properties, process ability, and compatibility with other polymers or materials. Too often a designer goes from a strategic perspective to tactical one by concentrating on price. We often talk with our customers about comparing the overall cost or impact of a using one polymer versus another. Price represents one point in time whereas cost takes into consideration the entire supply chain and manufacturing process. The medical device designer who is best able to look at an application from the polymer perspective and focus on cost versus price will be the designer who gets to market faster and stays there at a lower overall cost.
Q: What type of molding technique is gaining more interest with medical device engineers?
Meslin: In certain instances where part function and assembly can be maintained, blow molding is starting to emerge as a lower cost offset to injection molding. A blow molded part can be designed and produced at a lower cost than that of an injection molded part from a tooling perspective. If the overall consumption of a medical device is lower, the payoff can be significant.
Q: How are material advances impacting the capabilities offered with implantable devices?
Meslin: I would say there is a trend towards the opposite. Advances in implantable devices are impacting the capabilities of polymer materials. Changes in the design of single-use implantable devices and a significant effort by the industry to improve patient outcomes are reducing liability risk for the entire industry. As polymer suppliers become more educated on the jobs their products are hired to do, collaboration with OEMs becomes much more substantial, and much more frequent.
Q: Where is medical molding headed over the next five to ten years?
Meslin: I would expect to see a continued increase in both automation and integration. Cost is a big focus in any manufacturing environment but the focus on cost is more prevalent in the healthcare industry than in years past. Automating certain pre- and post-molding functions, the integration of components to eliminate complexities, and taking advantage of a wider array of polymers in order to enable this process reduce overall costs and strengthen the industry long term.