2011. december 03., szombat
Even suppliers to the medical technology sector are benefiting from the current growth trend in the medical technology industry. This was once again impressively demonstrated by the outstanding reception shown by exhibitors and visitors alike at COMPAMED 2011 in Düsseldorf.
"Manufacturers and suppliers are cooperating more and more on all levels of the value adding chain, whether in product development, specific services, or even complete contract manufacturing. In light of this, staging COMPAMED together with MEDICA, the world's biggest medical trade fair, is now more than ever a central success factor," says Joachim Schäfer, manager of Trade Fair Düsseldorf, about the successful interaction between COMPAMED, as the leading international market and communication platform of the suppliers to the "medtech" industry, and MEDICA, the top global industry event showcasing end products for use in hospitals and doctors' practices. Of the 134,500 visitors to MEDICA and COMPAMED 2011, over 16,000 were specifically interested in the topics and the products of the 627 exhibitors at COMPAMED (16 to 18 November / MEDICA to 19 November 2011). 4,571 exhibitors took part at MEDICA 2011.
The service industry is becoming more and more important for medical technology companies. Companies in this sector are hoping to enter into long-term relationships with customers and to distinguish themselves from the competition through their innovative products. According to a study by the industrial association SPECTARIS and J & M Management Consulting, services can represent up to 20 percent of the total sales volume of larger manufacturers. In addition to the purchase cost of devices and systems, the cost of maintenance and repair is becoming an increasingly important factor for hospitals. "Particularly for small and medium sized companies there is a potential for expansion," explains Jan Wolter, head of the medical technology association at SPECTARIS. The valuable contribution that can be made by suppliers is demonstrated by numerous exhibitors at COMPAMED 2011. System Industrie Electronic GmbH (S.I.E.) of Lustenau, Austria, for instance, provides a comprehensive service by developing entire medical devices for its customers.
"For COMPAMED 2011, we will present a new, modular series of medical human machine interfaces, so-called HMIs. They combine the capabilities of advanced control technologies such as the tablet computing and smartphone touchscreens with the essential features of medical devices, including long-term availability, fail-safe operation, as well as meeting the regulatory requirements," explains Sascha Österle, Market Communications Manager at S.I.E. Even with gloves, the devices are reliably controlled in multi-touch mode, while flush glass surfaces allow easy disinfection and cleaning. Since customers such as General Electric (exhibitor at MEDICA 2011) insist on fast development times, individually combinable technology modules (different displays, touch technologies, computer architectures and operating systems) are key factors for fast implementation.
Still on the winning track in medical technology are plastics which, thanks to new processing methods, have meanwhile even advanced to being used for stents. "Biostents, which over time dissolve in the body, are on the rise. However, processing suitable plastic tubes is only possible with pico- and femtosecond lasers," explained Dr. Günter Kamlage, CEO of Micreon Ultrafast Laser Processing GmbH of Hanover, at COMPAMED 2011. It is only at the extremely short pulses of trillionths of (pico) and quadrillionths of (femto) seconds that the thermal load of the polymers is so low that they don't melt. Since demographics show that more and more people are living longer, the need for inexpensive stents continues to rise, and this is a great opportunity for plastic solutions. In this respect, Micreon is a service provider, using lasers to integrate the desired structures into stents. For the first time ever at COMPAMED, BASF's petrochemical division presented its phthalate-free plasticizer Hexamoll DINCH. The plasticizer was designed specifically for sensitive applications with very close human contact. Thanks to its low migration rate and excellent toxicological profile, this alternative plasticizer ensures maximum safety. "We invested five million euros in this," states Markus Effinger, product manager for Hexamoll DINCH. The plasticizer is primarily used in products for enteral and parenteral feeding, but also in other applications such as catheters and breathing masks. Studies have also shown that Hexamoll DINCH is suitable for use in blood bags. Red blood cells have a storage life of 42 days, blood platelets can be stored for six days. A good blood compatibility has also been reported when used in dialysis sets. Furthermore, soft PVC articles that contain the plasticizer even retain the technical characteristics after sterilisation. Because of the increasing demand, BASF intends to double its current production capacity from 100,000 to 200,000 tons per year by 2013.
In addition to plastics, metal materials were also an important topic at COMPAMED. For instance, Elektroform Gesellschaft für funktionelle Galvanotechnik mbH &o. KG of Norderstedt manufactures, amongst other things, thick nickel-phosphorus layers by means of galvanic deposition, which are ideal for manufacturing microstructured moulds. "These layers can be easily worked with diamonds and attain a surface roughness below two nanometres, so they are extremely precise," explains Dr. Jan-Henrik Müller, head of R&D at Elektroform.
Such high-precision moulds can be used to make plastic injection moulded parts such as microoptics for endoscopes or ultrafine channels for microfluidics, for instance. Because of the high degree of hardness (around 600 Vickers) of the nickel-phosphorus layers (with the appropriate heat treatment, even 900 Vickers are possible), the moulds have a very long lifetime.
That all types of materials have become a permanent feature at COMPAMED is illustrated by examples from the bonding technology sector. As in the automotive and aerospace industry, glueing is gaining in importance. In this respect, the Natural and Medical Sciences Institute (NMI) at the University of Tübingen in Reutlingen offers the most varied solutions for medical technology. "One important advantage is that in the glueing process, in which little or no heat is applied, the structure of the materials to be bonded remains virtually unaltered," explains Dr. Astrid Wagner, responsible for the glueing department at NMI. The institute has all the necessary facilities for surface pre-treatment, the processing of adhesives, the manufacture of test specimens, as well as strength and durability testing. Of particular interest for medical technology are systems for bonding plastic and steel or titanium and steel for the manufacture of instruments that are used in minimally invasive surgery, for instance.
For over 60 years, Strubl KG of Wendelstein near Nuremberg has been developing pouches, bags and films from the clean room for pharmaceutical use. "We use various types of polyethylene and propylene, laminates and Tyvek (paper-fleece-like non-directional fibre textile) to manufacture primary and secondary packaging," states Otto Schuler, Plug&Pack systems product manager at Strubl. The packaging materials from the clean room must meet the same quality standards as the products manufactured in the clean room. Consequently, the trend is heading steadily towards combining the production of active agents and their packaging. In light of this trend, 10 years ago the Wendelstein company began its own machine manufacture which, thanks to a modular base, can provide solutions for various environments, conditions and customer requests.
Even the high-tech medical technology industry still has simple ideas and simple solutions that are amazing. ELISCHA Medical GmbH of Halberstadt, for instance, developed the intelligent set and qualification system Oral Hygiene Concept which allows dental care for patients who require care or nursing. The set comprises a special toothbrush with an integrated prosthesis lifter, a biocompatible tooth gel to prevent inflammation and to keep the mouth moist, as well as a mouth wash. During development, ELISCHA cooperated closely with the dental and biosciences R&D centre Witten GmbH (ZBZ). "Our partner produced its own products after just two years, which is extremely fast," applauds Leif Grundmann, CEO of ZBZ. In the meantime, the development has won several awards. "Now that we have developed and marketed some important products, we must now convey our knowledge to healthcare workers. This will be carried out by Prophyacademy, which was established at ZMB Witten," explains Ricky Flach. The CEO of ELISCHA Medical is convinced that oral hygiene affects people's health in general and, in light of the demographic changes, is becoming more and more important.
In addition to the exciting subjects showcased by the exhibitors, two forums provided insight into the world of high-tech developments in medical technology. This year the already established forum on microsystem technology in Hall 8a, which was again organized by the IVAM association, was complemented by the COMPAMED Suppliers Forum. Device-Med magazine was responsible for the content of this new, English language forum. "We don't see this forum as competing with the IVAM forum. We chose the spectrum of topics specifically to avoid any overlaps," stresses Peter Reinhardt, DeviceMed's editor-in-chief. Whereas the IVAM forum focused on nano- and microtechnology as well as surfaces and coatings, the 26 lectures of the COMPAMED Suppliers Forum covered the entire spectrum at COMPAMED. Both forums were well-received. Many of the lecturers made additional contacts at their booths, a positive response to the presentations. "The beauty of combining the trade fair and the forums is the opportunity for a direct exchange of ideas," says Reinhardt.
COMPAMED 2011 demonstrated that: The medical technology supplier industry remains a highly innovative sector. There are new developments in every field – from materials to system technology all the way to services and packaging. The rate at which innovations are developed remains high. This will again be evident no later than at COMPAMED 2012, which will take place from 14 to 16 November 2012.