Q: What’s in store for the medical device sector in the coming year? What news, technologies, regulations, or companies will capture the spotlight in 2016?
In 2016, we expect to see an accelerated conversion of all-metal surgical instruments to hybrid, composite solutions combining metal and high-performance polymers such as polyarylamide (PARA), polyaryletherketone (PAEK), and polyetheretherketone (PEEK). Fully plastic instruments, such as pliers, have already seen broad adoption in modern surgery. But the combination of metal and polymers opens up new horizons in the design of future instruments. For example, the use of metal inserts overmolded with plastics during the injection molding process provides the best of both worlds: a cost-competitive solution that combines metal’s strength with the light weight and design flexibility offered by polymer technology. Polymers also allow integration of more complexly shaped handles into instrument designs, to improve the weight balance and the overall surgical performance of the instrument.
These new hybrid developments will require instrument designers, molders and plastic material suppliers to collaborate in order to integrate feedback from surgeons about incumbent metal instruments and formulate polymers with optimized mechanical properties and processing requirements. We also see improved regulatory support and positive industry experience driving conversion of heavy structural orthopedic instruments, such as retractors and rod benders.