Innovation No Longer Means Increased Costs
Innovation No Longer Means Increased Costs Materials manufacturer offers new solutions at comparable costs. Innovations Require Complex Materials Healthcare has always been a competitive marketplace, and the demand to have consis- tently high quality, yet affordable products, continues to increase as facilities struggle with higher costs and decreased reimbursement. With this in mind, the industry has worked to enhance these specialized products to be more ergonomic and functional. Designs continue to be tweaked, and design has come to the point where the materials are just as important when establishing an industry leading device or instrument. Finding the right materials manufacturer can be a challenge, especially with the mass migra- tion to consolidation in the medical design industry. However, smaller, more nimble com- panies offer the research and development-backed materials, along with the flexibility, that more innovative companies desire. Durable plastic devices have been used for more than 100 years, especially since injection molding offered faster manufacturing processes, but providing an efficiently made, durable plastic is no longer enough for most companies. For that reason, researchers have designed rubber and plastic formulas with inherent characteristics built into the polymers. These char- acteristics include strength, durability and flexibility. Page 2 But, once again, this advancement is not enough; quality, clinical performance, infection control liability and other concerns rise to dominance. As a result, technology continues to push the limits on materials design, including details like: • Characteristics of the plastics and rubbers • How these materials interact with fluids and chemicals in their environment • If the molds are used in FDA registered facilities and clean rooms • Temperature tolerance in extreme conditions, while maintaining all inherent characteristics • How device design maintains integrity and performance during use Industry demands push innovation, and suppliers rely on materials manufacturers to push the enve- lope in development so they can offer healthcare professionals the best solution for their application. This comes at a cost – sometimes a high cost. While innovations with supporting materials are excit- ing, cost is a major factor in the medical device industry. Suppliers, both large and small, struggle with balancing the cost of research and development with the cost to the provider and the patient. As a result, materials manufacturers are cognizant of this factor when it comes to assisting with device design. A more expensive design without a major clinical benefit will not be chosen by facilities. In the 1980s and 1990s there was a large manufacturing transition from metal products to plastic and rubber alternatives due to the availability and relative cost of the material. With that transition nearing completion, finding ways to make more affordable, better plastics and rubbers has been a priority. Investing in a quality materials manufacturer can guarantee the company a quality product, but over- investing can be dangerous as cost drivers remain crucial. That said, using a lower quality or poorly developed product may compromise a supplier’s relationship with their customer following a device failure. Finding this middle ground in price, while ensuring quality and clinical performance, is every materials manufacturer’s goal. What is important to realize while making these materials’ decisions is the potential for expert partnerships. Partnership Benefits Many times a supplier will have a design concept in mind, but not the research and development expertise or resources to finalize the design specifications. Materials manufacturers, such as Minnesota Rubber and Plastics, are recognized as industry leaders, firstly for the commitment towards research and design in their materials division, and secondly for the long-standing commitment to develop- ing molds and processes to ensure its long-lasting effectiveness in the medical industry. Minnesota Rubber and Plastics components contribute to industry-leading devices and brands in the diagnostic, surgical, orthopedic and interventional markets. A critical part in meeting this demand is developing innovative materials. The most recent innovation is Quniton™, a compound formulated to be highly lubricious. This low-friction material has obvious benefits in the medical device industry, making the seals on plungers and vials, equipment and access devices more secure and smoother to operate. Additional benefits and features are ideal for an indus- try with critical requirements and demands: • Quniton’s low compression set means it will maintain its integrity and sealing force • UV resistant, a feature especially timely with an increasing number of UV light disinfection equipment on the market • Thermal stability in temperatures up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit Compared to existing materials such as SBR and NBR, Quniton exhibits excellent resistance against UV aging, making it applicable in devices or equipment that use high-dosage UV light. Because Quniton is saturated (i.e., containing no double bonds) it is inherently protected from degradation caused by exposure to UV light. This is important because UV disinfection is becoming an increasingly popular Page 3 sanitization method in the medical device industry, due to its ability to reduce hospital “superbugs” and its overall environmental friendliness as compared to other sanitization methods. Quniton’s non-reactive properties and low coefficient of friction (CoF) present a solution for both large and small bore syringe plugs and plunger seals, as well as vial seals. Quniton exhibits a CoF that is inherently low for the material (