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Coating Company Refocuses Business from Frying Pans to Functional Coatings

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Coating Company Refocuses Business from Frying Pans to Functional Coatings
Shana Leonard
Orion Industries offers a range of coatings for medical devices, including FluoroWire.

Initiation into the medical device industry for Orion Industries (Chicago) came in the form of a VHS tape. In the late 1970s, the company was contracted by medical manufacturer Baxter to develop a coating for early endoscopic instruments that provided permanent electrical insulation. New to the medical device industry, the supplier required a better understanding of the finished product’s end use in order to optimize the needed coating.

“We really didn’t have much idea of what this [endoscopy procedure] was all about until one of the engineers came by and showed us a videotape,” says Bruce Nesbitt, president of Orion. “We were just awed. Since then, we’ve really focused on medical [applications].”

The company’s roots in coating technologies date back earlier than the 1970s, however. Orion Industries has its origins in a scenario Nesbitt describes as typically American—it all began in his parents’ basement when he was a kid. Officially founded in 1963, the company coated automotive parts and eventually found a niche in Teflon-coating frying pans. But when, in 1995, its biggest customer was bought out and began outsourcing to China, Orion fell on hard times, losing half of its business, according to Nesbitt.

Having continued to serve the medical market on a small scale since working with Baxter, Orion rebounded from the mid-1990s frying pan setback by honing its medical device–coating capabilities. Now, the medical device industry accounts for an estimated 40% of its business and the company plans to open a third facility dedicated solely to medical applications, Nesbitt says.

At the core of the company’s business is Teflon, which Orion applies to a range of medical devices ranging from guidewires to mandrels. It coats guidewires with lengths from 160 to 640 cm and with diameters from 0.016 to 0.038 in. Coating technologies include FluoroWire for adding functional coatings to wire; FluoroMed, the process of applying FDA-acceptable coatings to medical tools and equipment; and FluoroBond, designed to transform high-friction rubber and silicone rubber surfaces on such products as O-rings, plugs, and grommets into low-friction surfaces.

Among the supplier’s most recent offerings are the antimicrobial-enhanced FluoroMed coating and the VisiBand contrasting-color marking system. “We can provide the medical field with a definitive measurement while the surgeon is doing the procedure,” Nesbitt says of VisiBand, which enables permanent markings indicating depth or measurement for brain probes, wires, biopsy devices, needles, and other such devices.

Traditionally, surgeons insert such devices into patients, mark the distance, remove the device, measure the distance, and reinsert the device, Nesbitt explains. The company’s technology enables surgeons to indicate measurement and depth without removing the device from the patient. “Commonly, devices that have been PTFE coated have the coating removed to indicate a measurement point or a painted band is applied. This creates a notch in or a bump on the coating,” Nesbitt says. “What is remarkable about VisiBand marking is that it is not added to the surface of the PTFE coating, but is created under the ‘skin’ of the coating.” VisiBand technology is visible in all types of lighting as well, so reflection of intense light is not an issue, he adds.

With the addition of VisiBand marking, Orion continues to broaden its offerings to the medical market—a strategy that Nesbitt finds especially rewarding. “We’ve been in business 44 years now and it’s a constant evolution. But I enjoy this now more than years ago because we understand the value of sticking to our guns and not just chasing the frying pan jobs,” he says.

“There’s a wonderful feeling when I see a package of guidewires being labeled and bar coded for shipment,” Nesbitt continues. “It’s not simply a frying pan. Every one of these guidewires helps a human being have a better life.”

www.orioncoat.com

Booth #625

Copyright ©2008 Medical Product Manufacturing News
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