The combination of emerging technologies, materials, and industry trends are forcing industries of all stripes to adapt. Medical manufacturing is no exception.
Here are some of the top trends set to impact the medical manufacturing industry in 2021 and beyond.
Top Medical Manufacturing Trends in 2021 and Beyond
Wearable Medical Tech
Wearable technology offers users a convenient way to monitor an array of physiological functions spanning heart rate, blood pressure, respiration rate, blood glucose, body temperature and much more.
Wearables have become commonplace, equipping wearers with the opportunity to collect valuable data that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to.
Let’s take a look at some of the best wearable medical devices on the market.
From a wearable medical tech perspective, fitness trackers need to have numerous stand-out features in order to be widely adopted and worn consistently. Not to mention, the price, design, and quality of the software also play a key role in determining how successful the product will be on retail market shelves.
With a sleek design and an accurate, fast GPS, connected trackers like Fitbit® and Garmin Vivofit® have taken the fitness world by storm, offering data at a glance like calories burned, average lap times and distance traveled.
When connected to a smartphone app, this information can be leveraged to create customized training programs and engage in friendly competition with other users in an online community.
Many U.S. employers have started to incorporate wearable medical tech into their employee wellness programs and offer incentives to participants.
Smart Health Watches
There was a time where smartwatches were only good for helping users count their steps and tell time. Now, smartwatches like those released by Apple, allow them to perform the usual tasks of sending text messages and making phone calls, with the added benefit of tracking health data like sleep patterns and heart rate.
Biometrics refers to the measurement of physiological characteristics and attributes. It’s often used for security purposes to control access; many hospitals and healthcare systems are currently deploying biometric security architecture to accurately recognize patients and confirm their identities.
The collection of biometric data has even facilitated the development of flexible fabrics containing embedded sensors that gather information about users including fingerprints, voice patterns and eye structure, in a way that doesn’t cause discomfort for the wearer. SKIIN, from Myant of Canada, for example, can monitor your activity level and temperature and deliver insights into your well-being.
Additive Manufacturing for Medical Devices
Additive manufacturing is opening the door to a brand new approach in the construction of medical devices, which allows the complexity of their designs to be taken to the extreme. The global additive manufacturing market has generated $12 billion in revenue so far in 2020, and is forecasted to reach $78 billion by 2028.
Put simply, additive manufacturing and 3D printing are indistinguishable. It involves building a product by fabricating it layer by layer. Not only has it helped manufacturers create products that were previously impossible to make, but they can now be personalized for specific patients.
Listed below are the current applications of additive manufacturing for medical devices.
Over the last few decades, dental additive manufacturing technologies have been implemented in dental laboratories, and lately, they are enabling dentists, orthodontists, and oral surgeons to work in even smarter ways than ever before.
This technology is used to produce elaborate dental crowns, bridges, and implants. With the help of this disruptive innovation, each dental implant is accurately fabricated and customized to fit the patient without compromise, as well as meet the highest demands for accuracy, appearance, and durability. The application of this technology is also being examined for the precise development of removable prosthetics, aligners, and surgical templates.
→ Prosthetics and Orthotics
Traditionally, prosthetic limbs were fairly painful for the wearer and designed to do little more than disguise a physical disability. If you wanted to go the customized route, the process was expensive, time-consuming, and not accessible to most people.
But as additive manufacturing techniques have become more prominent, the concept of 3D-printed orthotics and prosthetics offers numerous benefits for both patients and manufacturers alike.
When compared side-by-side with conventional manufacturing, additive manufacturing greatly reduces material waste and eliminates the need to be manually adapted for each patient. One of the biggest advantages of additive manufacturing is that each part can be customized based on the individual user’s 3D scans. These 3D printed parts can create sophisticated “organic” shapes that have hidden, internal lattice structures that are comfortable for the wearer, while still being durable and strong.
→ General Tools
With its market potential, additive manufacturing has been integral in the production of general auxiliary equipment that would otherwise be more labor-intensive and costly to build conventionally in small quantities.
Relatively small, inexpensive, and portable 3D plastic printers can be used in the field and in remote areas to quickly make supporting devices on the spot as needed if there are no nearby manufacturing facilities.
The Future of Medical Manufacturing
The above-mentioned examples provide just a cursory glance at some of the advancements being made in the medical manufacturing world. With these practices already in evidence, such improvements can transform the future of medical manufacturing as we know it. Whatever the future holds for this industry, it’s clear that technology has accelerated its growth, making it mutually beneficial for manufacturers and consumers.
This post was contributed by Gordon Styles is the founder and President of Star Rapid Manufacturing Co., Ltd. Native to the UK, he was an early industry leader in rapid product development and 3D printing. Gordon has more than 35 years’ experience in the UK and China in advanced manufacturing and rapid prototyping. You can check out a few other guest posts below!