Tubing produced through intermittent extrusion. Image courtesy of Microspec.
Microspec will be bringing samples of its intermittent extrusion technology to the MD&M East show in New York June 11-13, among other innovations. Intermittent extrusion means that, in the length of one tube, the material changes completely from one material to another. “Typically it’s going from hard to soft or soft to hard,” said Timothy Steele, founder and CEO of Microspec, in an interview with MD&DI.
Intermittent extrusion is used in products such as catheters, especially something like PICC lines, which have proximal ends that are hooked up to multilumen tubing (bifurcated or even trifurcated) and things are molded onto the end of the tube. “In this case, the part that goes in the body needs to be soft and flexible, and the proximal end has to be a bit stronger, so this difference in hardness (or durometer) of the plastic is important,” said Steele.
Steele explained that the company is redesigning its cross heads to improve the intermittent process. “We will be bringing samples, probably made of polyurethane and also nylon in this intermittent extrusion,” he said.
Microspec is also working on technologies in which one end of the extruded polyurethane or nylon tube has one geometry and at the other end of the tube is a different geometry. “It might be that we have two lumens at one end of the tube and only one lumen at the other end,” said Steele. “All this is done online. We hope to have samples of that at the New York show.”
Like many of its products and technologies, another process that Microspec is working on is proprietary, but Steele did say that it involves polyurethane materials and manipulating the surface energy of the tube. “We’re changing the surface of the tube from being inherently hydrophilic to being hydrophobic without putting a coating on the tube,” said Steele.
Microspec’s reverse bump tubing will also be on display at the show. Traditional bump tubing involves extruding a tube where the outer diameter (OD) at one end of the tube is different from the OD at the other end of the tube. “It goes large to small, or small to large, or large to small and then large again—it can work both ways,” Steele explained. “But we're reversing the technology and instead of changing the outside diameter of the tube, we're keeping the outside diameter of the tube constant and we're changing the inside diameter (ID) of the tube, either going small to large or large to small,” he said.
Above: Image of bump tubing courtesy of Microspec
Steele said that the company will also probably be exhibiting echogenic tubing at MD&M East. “It doesn't have any barium in it, but we extrude the tube in such a way that there are balls trapped in the wall of the tube and under ultrasound it's visible inside the body.”
Because Microspec makes its own extrusion tools, the company can make a wide variety of different profiles. Steele says they expect to talk with prospective and current clients about their specific projects at MD&M East. “We have very constructive conversations at the trade shows about new products,” he said. “We sometimes actually sit down and brainstorm together after the show.”