AKRON—Health care provides the kind of demand for rubber that keeps on giving.
And to meet the innovations that go along with this continuous uptick, choosing the correct material for the correct device is sometimes optional, more often unique and always critical.
"Health care is the fastest-growing industry, and every application is critical," said Amalendu Sarkar, vice president of materials technology for Cirtec Medical, a developer and manufacturer of medical components based in Brooklyn Park, Minn. "And choosing the right elastomer is not only important, it is extremely critical as well.
"With the future growth of the industry directly related to the aging population, the criteria for the right elastomer is important."
Such options include polyisoprene rubber or silicone, and then within silicone, HCR or LSR.
"We live in a constantly evolving world," Sarkar told the audience during his May 9 keynote address, kicking off the second day of the Healthcare Elastomers Conference organized by Rubber News. "Khaled (Boqaileh, CEO of LabsCubed) mentioned this yesterday with AI—and health care plays a significant role in the quality of human capital."
By mid-century, Sarkar said, the U.S. will have undergone a seismic change, as 80 million people will be at least 80 years or older.
And personal care for those 85 and older are predicted to increase four times by 2040. Sarkar cited data that forecast there will be about 2.1 billion people across the globe who are 60 years and older by 2050.
"If we don't start now (in planning for medical device demand) we won't be able to catch up with this growth," Sarkar said. "This is a staggering trend that demands our attention."
The U.S. is predicted to double the average of all advanced countries in its health consumption as a measure of per capita spending.
And this is where AI can assist, Sarkar said.
"AI-powered robots are already used in hospitals to assist patients. ... The bottom line is there is tremendous growth potential in the health care industry in the near future," he said.