In recent years, we have seen a notable increase in the use of thermoplastics in medical devices. All signs indicate that this growth will continue as the medical device market expands across the globe. We’ve also witnessed closer collaboration between designers and manufacturers at earlier stages of the design process. This engenders tremendous opportunity for designers and engineers to advance device aesthetics and performance. As this blending of worlds becomes more common, it has become more important for manufacturers to anticipate what designers need.
Expansive Color Options to Elevate Patient-Centered Design
Lower cost for custom color and new color engineering processes and techniques are allowing designers to experiment with hues, saturations, and texture as never before possible. As healthcare facilities are being designed or redesigned to create patient-centered environments, we’re seeing more attention focused on the external design of medical devices. In these cases, the machines are just as critical to the overall perception of the room and the healthcare experience as the color of the walls and choice of furnishings. The days of flat white, beige, or grey as the “go-to” or as the only choice are behind us. Although the studies of how color affects patient care and healing are inconclusive and often debated, what is evident is that patients live in a world full of color and experience color a thousand different ways before and after an appointment. Why should healthcare environments be so different, and therefore unsettling?
Say a patient, George, arrives for a procedure and is confronted by a sterile room with a monolithic MRI machine in white and beige. It’s stark. Intimidating. It might even look outdated, which can lower George’s trust in the technology inside it. Color can help us change these perceptions and experiences in powerful ways!
Of course there are many shades of white and beige, and they do have their place. The point here is that color is always central to design. It evokes mood, feeling, weight, and influences space perception. Customarily, a palette will have a principal color and up to three complementary colors. One of the most powerful ways to implement a color palette is to have different thermoplastic products in the same color palette with different effects and luminosities. That takes you to one level. Adding texture, metallic finishes, and even imaging takes you even further. Advancements in thermoplastic materials have made it possible for the industry to offer a wide array of source materials.
Collaboration and Shorter Development Cycles
When manufacturers and designers work together, innovation happens. We see this across and within industries from aviation interiors to consumer goods to retail environments. The outcome is not limited to a more refined aesthetic—it has solid potential for real-world savings. Using new materials, technology, and processes lends an updated look and shortens the development cycle while retaining like-new and contemporary looks longer.
Manufacturing efficiencies also contribute heavily to innovation. Many designers and engineers are turning to thermoplastics because they meet the demand for shorter development cycles, custom solutions, and small runs to fulfill a speedy device-to-market strategy.
Smaller runs are also key to a designer’s ability to distinguish and elevate their customer’s brand because they allow for customization and more elegant integration of brand logos.
It sounds like a long wish list, but in essence, designers want what we all need to achieve success in our endeavors: choice, partnerships, and possibility—and the technology and forward-looking dispositions to make it happen.