Wearable, connected devices are allowing medical device manufacturers to enhance patient care.
With additional sensors and inputs using cloud storage, medical professionals have access to more patient data than ever before. And as devices become more connected, there will only be more.
According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, about 65 percent of new digital devices will go into monitoring services. That segment is expected to grow from $41 billion in 2017 to about $158 billion in 2022.
Marie Crane, health care market leader for DuPont, said the global medical device market is growing at 5 percent year-over-year with a projected value of $674 billion by 2022. She added that as technology advances, so do the demands on medical device manufacturers, and in turn their suppliers. Original equipment manufacturers are consolidating because of these pressures, and material suppliers are putting a focus on making new, advanced compounds to help push wearable technologies even further.
Crane added that the biggest application draw for the wearables market is fitness and activity trackers. And one of the biggest growing trends is in glucose monitoring for diabetic patients, both dealing with pumps and monitoring devices to improve quality of life.
By 2020, smart patches will make up about 30 percent of the wearable device market, which is projected to be worth $27.6 billion by 2021.
It's an exciting time to be in the medical industry, and it doesn't look like that will be changing anytime soon.
LSR growth continues
While overall silicone supply has tightened in the last two years or so, the future looks bright for liquid silicone rubber.
Kent Furst, manager of polymers and materials at the Freedonia Group, said that LSR is expected to grow by 8 percent annually through 2023 as the material continues to take share from high consistency silicone rubbers and thermoplastic elastomers.
While automotive remains the biggest market for LSR, medical is right behind in terms of size within the U.S., and remains the fastest growing market for LSR. Furst said that should continue through 2023 thanks to the material's biocompatibility and cleanliness, which makes it a strong choice to comply with ever-stringent regulations.
Trends within the industry driving growth for LSR are the need for high quality in improved processing or lower cycle times; improved sustainability, longevity or safety in sensitive applications; combination applications with other materials; and addressing changes to specifications driven by customers or regulatory bodies.
Q Holding Co. found a perfect opportunity to add new capabilities in the biopharma sector.
The firm acquired TBL Performance Plastics, a Sparta, N.J.-based manufacturer of single-use bioprocess components and systems. Prior to the deal, Q Holding served the biopharma industry through its England-based Silicone Altimex subsidiary, which produces silicone extruded and molded products for that space.
TBL brings a stronger presence in the North American market and will be combined with Silicone Altimex to form a yet-to-be-named Q Holding division focused on biopharma.
The biopharma division will complement its Quality Synthetic Rubber and Q Medical Devices divisions, which focus on non-medical/industrial and medical components/sub-assemblies, respectively.
With the medical market growing, it's only natural that companies would be investing. Some of the highlights from 2019 include:
- GW Plastics Inc. expanded its presence in Ireland with a $6.8 million investment to increase product development, precision tooling, thermoplastic and LSR injection molding applications. Later in the year, the firm also broke ground on a $10 million, 30,000-sq.-ft. addition at its site in Royalton, Vt.;
- Lubrizol Corp. added a $4 million applications lab in Brecksville, Ohio, and later in the year divested its breast implant unit;
- Natvar, a subsidiary of Tekni-Plex Inc., added a silicone tubing extrusion line in China to provide smaller sized tubes to the local medical device market;
- West Pharmaceutical Services Inc. added offices in South Korea and India; and
- Apple Rubber Products Inc. began expanding its Lancaster, N.Y., site by 12,000 square feet.
There also were plenty of developments on the new products front. Highlights included:
- Elkem showed off its LSR Select technology at MD&M West, which allows the LSR compounding process to be managed more efficiently by being able to manage cure speed;
- New medical skin adhesives from Dow Medical Solutions, developed to find a middle ground for wear times; and
- R.D. Abbott brought its silicone 3D printing technology to the market.