Silicone is changing the medical device world, one step at a time.
As more and more consumers flock toward Fitbits and iWatches, devices that can monitor fitness on a rudimentary level, more advanced wearable medical devices gradually are becoming increasingly prevalent in clinical settings. In time these devices could allow for hospitals to monitor patients remotely, reducing costs and increasing outpatient services.
“Wearable technology is huge,” said Luis Tissone, Life Sciences director for Trelleborg Sealing Solutions, North America. “Algorithms and sensors are so evolved at this point, but still in the very early stages of what we can achieve. These devices are going to be so intelligent that we're going to be able to proactively cure things rather than treating diseases.
“Wearable technology is evolving so fast, it just goes in line with the trends of smaller, more portable devices. It's definitely going to be one of the leading type of the devices and keep bringing the highest innovations in the industry in the years to come.”
And silicone is a big factor in pushing these devices to the next level. It is already a prevalent technology in wearable devices used for wound treatments because of its selective adhesion properties compared to other commonly used adhesives. Acrylic adhesives dominate the market primarily because they're the most cost-effective. Hydrogels and hydrocolloids are used in certain applications.
Kevin Pickett—medical products manager for Marian Inc., a converter of flexible material such as silicone into small die-cut parts—said of the four, silicone arguably is the most comfortable to wear on the skin. It doesn't pull hair off when removed, can be replaced multiple times, has strong waterproofing properties, is extremely pure and can be worn on the skin for a long period without irritation.
“Most silicones in health care have been used for wound dressing,” said Marie Crane, Dow Corning's global segment leader for medical devices. “Dow Corning has been active in that market for quite a number of years. The growth of silicones in wound dressing applications is actually displacing traditional acrylics because the market lends itself to them. The skin is very thin, so the compliancy and the move toward silicone are important because you're removing that trauma factor.
“I believe that bringing silicone into the market may change the way people traditionally use devices.”