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Albis Plastics highlights portfolio of locally produced materials at NPE2018

Albis Plastics highlights portfolio of locally produced materials at NPE2018

Albis Plastics Corp. (Hamburg, Germany), a global distributor and compounder of technical thermoplastics, will highlight compounds produced locally at the company’s news U.S. facility in Duncan, SC, at NPE2018. In booth S25127, Albis also will present its entire portfolio of high-performance plastics, compound solutions and masterbatches.

Stefan Fuhlendorf, President and CEO of Albis Plastics Corp
Stefan Fuhlendorf, President and CEO of Albis Plastics Corp.

Albis is now producing Altech Prime and Altech ECO (Near-to-Prime Recycled Compounds) at the Duncan plant, which opened in October 2017. Altech ECO compounds meet the growing demand for recycled plastics, which is spurred by the industry’s more limited use of fossil resources and environmentally conscious consumers. They are based on post-industrial feedstock and provide up to 100% recycled content for a range of applications.

At NPE2018, Albis also will highlight Alcom LDX HTC, light-diffusing copolyester-based compounds; Alcom TCD PA6 5060 FR 16089 and Alcom TCD PA6 5076 FR 15021 WT, which are thermally conductive and electrically insulating polyamide 6-based compounds; Alperform LD and LDX-Batch flexible and cost-effective solutions for light-diffusing coloring of polycarbonate and PMMA; and Alperform LB-Batch, a new masterbatch that enables flexible dosing.

“Our more than 50-year commitment to the U.S. market has been strengthened by the opening of our new plant in Duncan,” said Stefan Fuhlendorf, President and CEO of Albis Plastics Corp. “This enables us to offer our NAFTA-based customers local production using global specifications.”

SPE’s new brand identity and website reflect change

SPE’s new brand identity and website reflect change

It’s not only people and packaging that get makeovers, but professional organizations, too. The Society of Plastics Engineers (Bethel, CT) has launched a new brand identity and website that better communicate what SPE is and who its members are in unveiling a new logo, colors, and font and website.

SPE new logo“Who we are today as a society and industry is different than who we were 75, 50 or 25 years ago; even different than who we were just a year ago,” said Patrick Farrey, SPE CEO. “Our members and their needs have changed significantly. Our brand relaunch represents the natural evolution of that transformation. These improvements are about making sure our brand is relevant to our members and their lives. We are no longer a brand for ‘engineers’ only. Our design goal was to better match the members we serve today: plastics professionals that work throughout the plastics industry value chain worldwide-including scientists, technical personnel, and senior executives.”

SPE members come from a broad range of backgrounds, age, gender, educational experiences, majors, interests, motivations, as well as levels of prior knowledge and skills, totaling 22,500+ members from 84 countries.

“We celebrate the diversity of our community and support the professional and personal journeys of every one of our members.” said Farrey.  “That’s why we tell their stories through SPME, a new campaign that celebrates our members and who they are-unique, energetic, and forward looking.”

EastPack 2018 held June 12-14 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City features the latest in manufacturing and automation, a dedicated 3D Printing Zone, hundreds of exhibitors and a jam-packed 3-day packaging conference. For more information, visit the EastPack website.

Redesign details

SPE’s new logo is a fresh, vibrant and a modern look that incorporates where SPE has been and where it’s headed. SPE kept the shape of the shield, but chose to use lower case letters in its logo to present a vibe that’s approachable and welcoming vibe. The color green is retained, but it’s been darkened. This new “SPE green” is future-oriented: signaling current and prospective eco-friendly plastic innovations.Pat Farrey SPE CEO

SPE added a new tagline to their logo “Inspiring Plastics Professionals”.

“We are inspired by our members’ impact: those who make a profound difference in the plastics community every day,” noted Farrey. “This inspiration fuels our passion to help them succeed and guide them to answers they need; to connect them to colleagues/mentors and relevant trends, and champion their efforts to address the most pressing challenges within our industry. As you begin to see the new brand identity used on our website, at our events and through our communications, it will be a reminder that our members are—and always will be—the inspiration for all we do.”

A newly redesigned “responsive” website was launched as well. It was introduced at www.4spe.org and reflects SPE’s new brand identity.

“It was built with our members in mind, streamlining menus and simplifying navigation,” said Farrey. “It will allow us to deliver rich content in a clean and organized way.”

The new website will also provide easy access to join, renew membership, download articles or research, register for an event, or utilize any of the many SPE benefits.

SPE partnered with David Nelson of davidnelson design (Chicago) to implement this project. 

To explore the new SPE through the new website please go to www.4spe.org.

Weekly resin report: Polyethylene processors sit on sidelines, expecting lower prices ahead

Weekly resin report: Polyethylene processors sit on sidelines, expecting lower prices ahead

Spot resin trading began slowly last week, but picked up some steam as the days wore on. The PlasticsExchange (Chicago) reports in its Market Update that, while its trading desk was busy quoting, deals were sometimes difficult to complete and volumes fell below average.

Cool Design
Image courtesy Cool Design/
freedigitalphotos.net.

Polyethylene (PE) processors seemed content to procure in smaller quantities or just simply sit on the sidelines, rationalizing that lower prices lie ahead. Most grades of PE had at least decent availability with the occasional exception. Though the $0.03/lb PE increase, which had been delayed until April, remains on the table, some producers are now inching toward a possible split implementation for some grades, according to the PlasticsExchange.

The spot polypropylene (PP) market is more balanced, if not tight. Prime material remained relatively scarce, with a smattering of discounted off-grade cars showing up. A margin-expanding PP increase of $0.03 to 0.05/lb is still active for April, which is getting added support by crude oil reaching fresh three-year highs. 

On the PE market, deal flow slowed significantly and prices were mostly flat, writes the PlasticsExchange. There was a lack of enthusiasm among spot market participants; fresh railcar offers were sporadic, though discounted, and middle market suppliers have lightened inventories. End users picked away, but felt no urgency to procure more than what was needed.

Low-density and linear low-density PE film grades, which became more available, were the transaction leaders this trading week. High-density PE blowmolding was not too far behind. There was little interest in the injection grades. Despite another attempt to push through the $0.03/lb increase, the consensus seems to be that prices have some downside ahead. 

PP trading was also a little slower this past week. Prime PP supplies and prices remain tight and firm, while off-grade was looser and discounted. Although April PGP contracts decreased another cent, PP producers are still trying to implement a net price increase of $0.02 to 0.04/lb for April contracts, according to the PlasticsExchange. Buyers are beginning to recognize the market’s tight supply situation and the possibility that some increase will hold, at least by the end of May.

Read the full Market Update on the PlasticsExchange website.

Cobots featured in new palletizing, sealing and bulk-box-loading applications at NPE2018

Cobots featured in new palletizing, sealing and bulk-box-loading applications at NPE2018

Collaborative robots pioneer Universal Robots (Ann Arbor, MI) will show at NPE2018 in Orlando May 7-11 how this class of robots—now the fastest growing segment of industrial automation—effortlessly and inexpensively automate tasks in the plastics industry, a rapidly expanding market for the cobots.

It’s the company’s first year at NPE.

New trends in composite part fabrication, blow molding and high-mix/low-volume production are boosting demand for advanced manufacturing methods with cobots—robots that work safely with humans—being front and center.

On display at NPE2018 in the UR booth S27189 at the OrUR Kanga Comboange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL, will be the new Kanga Poucher from RND Automation & Engineering (Sarasota, FL).

Kanga is a vertical form/fill/seal pouching system that forms four-sided pouches for the medical device, pharmaceutical and durable goods industries. The system integrates with a UR cobot loading products into the pouches before the fourth, top seal is made after the product is indexed through the sealing gasket.

“Collaborative robots from Universal Robots reduce or eliminate the need for guarding, which means a significantly reduced footprint,” says Sean Dotson, President and CEO, RND Automation & Engineering. “The fully customizable robots fill our customers’ unique packaging needs. They also stop safely upon operator contact and can be moved with minimal force.”

Another system utilizing the small footprint and safety benefits of UR cobots featured at Universal Robots’ NPE booth is the Bulk Box Loader from Dyco Inc. (Bloomsburg, PA), “We are getting a lot of requests from our customers to integrate Universal Robots throughout the blow molding process. End of line packaging is just one example of their numerous applications” says Mark Lovelace, Sales Manager with Dyco that also offers a tray loading/palletizing system with UR cobots. “We selected UR for their robustness and design for use in industrial applications vs. other collaborative robots.”UR Dyco BulkBoxLoader

The integrated safety features of the UR cobots allows Dyco to offer continuous operation as the box loader cell includes two stations; while one box is being exchanged by an operator, the other box is being loaded by the robots. The system, shown loading plastic bottles at NPE, is designed for easy set-up on a self-contained plate that can be redeployed between multiple blow-molding production lines running different bottle and box sizes. The bulk box loader is a fully automated system controlled from the UR interface and a few push buttons.

 “It’s great to see the industry now demanding UR robots for versatile application needs,” says Brian Dillman, Area Sales Manager, UR. “Our product is uniquely positioned to address the pain points of the plastics manufacturers such as tightening labor markets, rapidly changing production lines, and the need to constantly lower overhead costs.”

EastPack 2018 held June 12-14 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City features the latest in manufacturing and automation, a dedicated 3D Printing Zone, hundreds of exhibitors and a jam-packed 3-day packaging conference. For more information, visit the EastPack website.

UR robots will also be exhibited in the following NPE booths:

Cold Jet (Loveland, OH) Booth W483

Cold Jet is the global leader that specializes in innovative dry ice cleaning solutions that improve manufacturing processes. At NPE, the company will be demonstrating a better way to clean molded parts prior to painting. The Cold Jet Combi 120H system is a waterless system that incorporates JIT dry ice production and an integrated blasting system. Cold Jet systems safely and gently removes a variety of contaminants from the molded parts using dry ice, eliminating the need for aqueous and solvent based cleaning methods and the associated large parts drying ovens. The system incorporates a UR10 collaborative robot cleaning automotive mirrors.

Proco Machinery Inc. (Mississauga, Canada) Booth W983

A leading manufacturer of automation systems for the blow molding industry, Proco will showcase the new collaborative robotic Half-Cube Palletizer system and the Robo-Packer. The Half-Cube Palletizer delivers a major cost reduction versus conventional automation as the system automatically palletizes blow mProco Robo Packerolded containers with minimal operator involvement—only manual operations occur when an operator places the trays in the magazine. The system quickly adapts to a variety of packaging configurations, i.e., all neck up or all necks down.

The palletizer is an integrated module supplied with the UR robot arm, infeed conveyor, pallet lift magazine and Slip sheet/Tray pick on a common sub-frame fitted with leveling pads and castor wheels. The Robo-Packer is a breakthrough collaborative robotic automation system that that works interactively with co-workers, requires no special guarding, and needs minimal training for teaching new tasks. The system is supplied with any of the three UR robot models depending on the application and comes at a cost that is 50% less than conventional automation solutions.

Chinaplas: Injection machine builder Wintec doubling capacity at Changzhou, China factory

Chinaplas: Injection machine builder Wintec doubling capacity at Changzhou, China factory

Changzhou, China-based injection molding machine OEM Wintec is doubling production capacity in response respond to anticipated demand growth for its machines in China as well as to support its global rollout in the Americas. From May this year, Wintec will start marketing its machines in  the US, Canada, Mexico and Brazil

Wintec’s e-win all-electric machine on show at Chinaplas was taking on a particularly challenging application in the form of a 65% glass fiber-reinforced automotive pump head.

Wintec is investing EUR10 million in the first major expansion of the site which started operations four years ago. The new capacity will be on line in the fourth quarter of 2019 and double the size of the site from its current 18,500-m2 area upon completion at the end of 2019. The number of employees in production alone will increase by 60%. “We plan a further expansion within the next three to four years, with the exact timing subject to demand,” says Michael Feltes, President – Sales and Service, at Wintec.

The company expects to manufacture 300 machines this current fiscal year at Changzhou ending in March 2019. Currently, 72% of Wintec’s sales are into the auto sector, with 23% for white goods applications and 5% for “technical molding” and others. At Chinaplas, Wintec will be demonstrating a particularly challenging application on one of its e-win 1000-170 two-platen, all-electric machines. An automotive pump head component will be molded from a 65% glass fiber-reinforced polyphenylene sulfide (PPS). The 39-gram part will be molded in a two-cavity mold with a cycle time of 18 seconds.

Wintec is also supporting parent firm Engel’s Shanghai manufacturing operations via the machining of platens and machine frames. The Shanghai Engel plant was expanded in 2017 with land area now fully occupied. Phase 4 of expansion there added 1.500 m2 of space and saw installation of a 10-axis machining center capable of working on workpieces weighing up to 160 tonnes. This giant machine is being supported by two machining centers at Wintec in Changzhou that can machine workpieces up to 60 tonnes in weight.

For its part, Engel is investing EUR375 million globally through to 2020 in new production capacity and other facilities. The company has just expanded its northern production hall in St. Valentin by 11,500 m2.

Asia accounts for 20% of overall Engel sales, with 90% of machines sold in Asia also made in the company’s Asian plants in Shanghai, China, and Pyongtaek, South Korea.

BigRep launches flexible filament for 3D printing

BigRep launches flexible filament for 3D printing

BigRep (Berlin), a manufacturer of large-scale fused deposition modeling (FDM) additive manufacturing (AM) equipment, has introduced a material based on thermoplastic urethane (TPU). Pro Flex opens up “a wealth of possibilities for manufacturers and customers” seeking a flexible engineering material, said the company. 

BigRep One
The TPU-based filament was developed
to work with the BigRep One, the company's largest industrial 3D printer.

Pro Flex was developed and tested to work in connection with BigRep’s largest industrial 3D printer, the BigRep One, and its standard 1-mm extruder. Pro Flex has high-temperature resistance as well as low-temperature impact resistance, said BigRep.

The durable material has excellent damping behavior and dynamic properties, enabling companies to explore a broader range of manufacturing opportunities, the company said. 

For the automotive industry, it enables prototyping for gear knobs, door handles, cable sheathing and more. The sporting goods industry could also potentially benefit, as Pro Flex allows prototyping of skateboard wheels, noted BigRep.

“Printing elastomers is clearly one of the biggest challenges in the [fused filament fabrication] AM industry, so we are proud to have found an industrial-grade solution,” said Moshe Aknin, BigRep’s Chief Technology Officer. “In terms of applications with Pro Flex, we see high potential for 3D printing in fields like footwear, custom vibration dampers and seals, due to its high chemical resistance.”

BigRep advises customers that handling extrusion of flexible materials can be challenging. It will provide a guidance document to all Pro Flex customers, and as part of the BigRep 360-degree service, customer service technicians are also on hand to assist where necessary.

Demand for oil continues to climb, despite push for consumers to buy electric vehicles

Demand for oil continues to climb, despite push for consumers to buy electric vehicles

gasoline pumpShort-term demand for oil is still growing strong and will continue through the end of 2020, according to IHS Markit (London), a provider of business analytics and information. “The trend is taking place despite the market’s increasing focus on electric vehicles (EVs) and the forecasted future plateau in oil demand, according to new analysis,” said the new report. “Current global total oil demand is approximately 100 million barrels per day.”

While some people (mainly automakers) may be “focused” on EVs, it’s evident that consumers aren’t yet convinced of the benefits. According to a report released in January 2018 by Inside EVs, 199,826 EVs were sold in the United States in 2017, an improvement over 2016, which saw U.S. sales plateau at 158,614 EVs. Tesla sold 27,000 of its Model S, with a base price of $74,500, and the company’s Model X SUV sold 21,000. Those figures are a fraction of the total of 17 million new cars sold in the United States in 2017.

General Motors’ Bolt EV and Volt (hybrid) are counted together, but Volt’s sales lagged significantly compared to 2016, said the report from Inside EVs. Toyota’s Prius Prime sold just 21,000 units.

EV makers must be breathing a sigh of relief that the latest tax retained tax credits that are still badly needed to get consumers on board. However, with gasoline prices down in 2017, it’s become a tough sell. Tax credits decrease with an increase in sales above the 200,000 unit mark, and eventually go away altogether with large consumer adoption numbers. 

“Although electric vehicles are making headlines, they are not yet a market force to replace the internal combustion engine that powers today’s automotive fleets, so oil demand is currently growing strong,” said Spencer Welch, head of global short-term refining research at IHS Markit and the report’s co-author. 

“Although EVs undoubtedly have the potential to disrupt the energy and automotive sectors in the longer term, they currently make up around 1.5 to 2% of total global vehicle sales, and account for less than 0.5% of the global vehicle fleet; so their influence on the oil market, in the short term, is limited.”

It’s often been said that gasoline would have to reach $5 a gallon before consumers would consider a hybrid EV or especially an EV, given the current pricing for these vehicles. EVs are not priced for the mass market and with their limited mileage between charges, many people envision being stranded on the highway. Hybrid EVs elicit more confidence on long trips but the cost will remain a factor. 

Another factor in EVs is the fire danger. A recent fire on U.S. Highway 101 near Mountain View, CA, involved a Tesla Model X that crashed into an unshielded highway median. Two other vehicles rear-ended the Tesla SUV, which caught fire. News reports said that the highway was closed for five hours as firefighters, wearing special hazmat suits, tried extinguishing the blaze that continued to burn the SUV despite their best efforts. Firefighters finally put in a call to Tesla asking for help in how to extinguish the blaze. 

While EVs are not exactly more prone to battery fires, experts say that their lithium-ion batteries can fuel hotter fires that release toxic fumes and are more difficult to put out. Also, another problem reported is that the fires keep reigniting which explains why it takes so long and requires copious amounts of water or foam (it is an electric fire, after all) to smother the flames. 

IHS Markit’s Welch noted the questions that the researchers seek to answer next are how long oil demand growth will last and whether ongoing economic growth and moderately low, stable oil prices will continue to support demand and refining margins into the medium term. “There is a possibility that demand growth in the 35-country Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation could be short-lived as oil prices gradually start returning to higher levels, fuel economy improves and EV penetration grows,” said Welch.

But EVs and even hybrid vehicles have a long way to go to convince consumers that the benefits outweigh the costs and risks. 

Frigel and Matsui Technologies India form joint venture 

Frigel and Matsui Technologies India form joint venture 

HandshakeProcess-cooling equipment manufacturer Frigel (East Dundee, IL) and Matsui Technologies India Ltd. (MTIL) have announced a 50:50 joint venture to meet demand for cooling solutions in the fast-growing plastics, beverage, and oil and gas industries in India. Matsui Technologies India Ltd. is a joint venture of Matsui Japan and Samvardhana Motherson Group. The joint venture is named Frigel Intelligent Cooling Systems India Private Ltd., and will enable both partners to significantly enhance the quality of their current offerings.

“This is an important step for Frigel’s global strategic growth as we look to meet the rapidly growing need among processors in India for more advanced technologies and techniques to process cooling. This, in turn, will allow them to improve their operations and better serve their customers,” said Frigel CEO Duccio Dorin. “At the same time, we’re excited to further our relationship with Matsui, given their strong presence in India and their reputation as a leader of auxiliary equipment that complements Frigel’s process-cooling technologies.”

Frigel is an internationally recognized process-cooling innovator that pioneered the concept of Intelligent Process Cooling. MTIL is a manufacturer of high-quality auxiliary equipment, such as dryers, dehumidifiers, blenders, granulators and centralized conveying systems. It has served the India marketplace since 2006. 

The partnership calls for Frigel to manufacture its line of Ecodry 3DK line of fluid coolers and Microgel RCS water-cooled chillers/TCUs in India. Operations will take place at a facility in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India. 

Frigel India will also supply other advanced and eco-friendly technologies to the Indian marketplace, including Heavygel centralized high-capacity and high-efficiency water chillers and synchronized cooling system for beverage production. 

Can New Indication Give Medtronic Edge in DCB?

D97JRO/Pixabay Can New Indication Give Medtronic Edge in DCB?

Medtronic is entering  a bold new chapter in the continued evolution of its drug-coated balloon technology (DCB). The Dublin-based firm said on Monday, that it received a nod from FDA for the IN.PACT Admiral DCB to treat long superficial femoral artery (SFA) lesions up to 360mm in patients suffering from peripheral artery disease (PAD). 

Approval was based on clinical data from the complex lesion imaging cohorts of the IN.PACT Global Study, including long lesion, in-stent restenosis, and chronic total occlusion groups with lesion lengths greater than 180mm.

Across these groups, a total of 227 subjects with mean lesion lengths of 28.7 ± 7.1 cm were analyzed. Data showed a one-year patency rate of 89.1% by Kaplan Meier estimate at day 360, and a clinically-driven target revascularization rate of 7.1% .

“With this approval, IN.PACT Admiral is now indicated to treat the longest lesions of any commercially-available DCB or peripheral stent in the U.S., providing physicians with additional confidence in using this DCB as part of their treatment algorithm," said Mark Pacyna, vice president and general manager of the Peripheral business, which is part of the Aortic & Peripheral Vascular division at Medtronic.

Medtronic first gained CE mark for the IN.PACT Admiral DCB in 2009 to treat PAD and in 2016 for AV access. The company received FDA approval for the device in 2014 for percutaneous transluminal angioplasty, after appropriate vessel preparation, of restenotic lesions with lengths up to 180 mm in superficial femoral or popliteal arteries with diameters of 4mm to 7 mm.

DCB Market Unleased

C.R. Bard was the first company in the U.S. to win FDA approval for its drug-coated angioplasty balloon catheter. The Murray Hill, N.J.-based firm was acquired by Becton, Dickinson and Company (BD) for $24 billion in late 2017.

In its most recent earnings call, BD said it was working on obtaining a below-the-knee (BTK) indication for the Lutonix DCB. The company has enrolled more than 450 patients in a clinical study evaluating the device for the indication.

“The Lutonix BTK trial is the only ongoing DCB trial for BTK arteries in the U.S. and we anticipate completing six-month follow-up and submission of the PMA to the FDA by the end of calendar year 2018,” Christopher Reidy, Executive Vice President, CFO, and Chief Administrative Officer said, according to a transcript from Seeking Alpha. “We look forward to being the first company to have the BTK indication in the U.S."

BD/Bard and Medtronic aren’t the only companies to have DCB solutions.

Spectranetics was able to enter in the DCB market through its acquisition of Covidien’s Stellarex DCB balloon for $30 million. The sale of DCB assets addressed antitrust laws associated with Medtronic’s $43 billion acquisition of Covidien. Interestingly enough, Royal Philips N.V.  picked up Spectranetics for $2.2 billion and gained access to Stellarex in 2017.

Exploring the Latest in Sensor Technologies for Medtech

Maklay62/Pixabaly.com Exploring the Latest in Sensor Technologies for Medtech

When it comes to exciting new breakthroughs, you really don’t need to look any further than the industry of sensor technologies. From a biosensor technology that measures brain activity to a wearable sensor that can prevent pressure injuries, new sensor technologies are leading the charge in medtech innovation—and these developments are just the tip of the iceberg.

Roger Grace, president of strategic marketing firm Roger Grace Associates, has been working in the sensor technology market since 1982. Grace has spent years as a technology marketing consultant, providing a broad range of services from strategy development to custom market research and new product introductions.

In 2016 Grace was awarded the “Sensor Industry Impact Award” by Sensors Magazine for his contributions to the education and promotion of sensor technologies. As an expert on sensor technologies, Grace will be part of a panel discussion at the MD&M East Medtech Education Hub in New York this summer discussing the latest developments and trends in sensor technology.

Grace recently sat down to speak with MD+DI to preview his talk and share some of the exciting new developments coming out of the world of sensor technologies. He also offered a few tips for device makers when it comes to finding the right sensor technology for your device.

MD+DI: For starters, you have been working in the industry of sensor technologies for over 35 years. With new sensor technologies springing up almost every week, how do you keep up with the latest technologies?

Grace: I find attending conferences to be my No. 1 best approach to keep up to speed on technology—both from a technical paper presentation and visiting the exhibition booths to see what products are currently available. I also read a great deal, both printed technical publications and electronic. Finally, I also have many friends and colleagues who send me materials (and I do likewise) that I may have an interest in.

MD+DI: With so many options on the market, how challenging has it been for you when it comes to identifying the right sensor technology for a certain medical device? What are some keys that you look for when pairing the right technology to a device?

Grace: Having spent the first 15 years of my professional career as a design and systems engineer, I have learned to accomplish trade-off studies. In the sensor world, I like to look at it as a “toolkit” approach. There are a lot of different types of sensors available that may suit the measurement requirements of a device, so typically it comes down to which sensor technology does the best job. Moreover, I believe that designers need to look at sensors as a vital part of a systems-based solution, which must include several electronic functionalities to make them more valuable contributors to an application solution.

MD+DI: What are some of the coolest state-of-the-art sensor technologies you see on the horizon that could have a significant impact on medical devices in the near future? How soon could we see these technologies on the market?

Grace: I believe that printed/flexible/stretchable and functional fabric technologies will be the next major success stories in the medical diagnostics area. Printed/flexible/stretchable sensors are currently on the market by many suppliers, and they can measure a myriad of parameters.

Next in line are the sensors that can be woven in wearables, like shoes, socks, t-shirts. Several manufacturers have made these available to the market already. My presentation at MD&M East will highlight these technologies, as they are ideal for wearables that can measure physiological parameters including sweat, urine, saliva, blood, heart rate, and body temperature.

MD+DI: What role do sensor technologies play when it comes to the development of motion capture and user interface technologies, and where do you see these technologies having the biggest impact?

Grace: Motion capture has been a major application of inertial sensors like accelerometers and gyros. These typically are made from silicon and are considered microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). With the advent of the popularity of printed/flexible/stretchable and functional fabric sensors, various other information can be determined vis-à-vis bend sensors in the arms, legs, and fingers.

Also, optical sensors can be used for this purpose, much in the same way that autonomous vehicles use a sensor suite of microwave radar sensors, ultrasonic sensors, and infrared sensors to locate objects. Several companies are offering printed/flexible/stretchable sensors to measure gait and stride.

MD+DI: Is there an area where you think sensor technologies could be utilized more, or perhaps should be utilized more?

Grace: I believe that sensors have proliferated into a broad area of applications, but there will always be a need for better, cheaper, and smaller sensors.

MD+DI: These days, sensor technologies have been advancing at impressive rates. Is there still plenty of room for improvement when it comes to sensor technologies, and if so, how do you hope to see them evolve?

Grace: I believe that in the area of MEMS, we are now in a mature state. This technology first appeared in the early 1960s, so we’ve had over 50 years to refine them. At this point, I believe that the major area for improvement is to make sensors “smart” by adding more functionality to the sensors so that they can make decisions.

Smart sensors are available on the market today from many suppliers based on a recent market study that I conducted. Smart sensors include a microprocessor and other electronics either integrated onto or into the sensor or attached via bodwires in a package. Also, I believe that major advances can be made in packaging from a size, cost, and robustness perspective. I consider packaging, integration, and interconnects to be the key to successful sensing solutions.

MD+DI: Finally, in a broad sense, how important do you think sensor technologies are to the advancement of next-gen medical devices, and how ubiquitous do you think advanced sensor technologies will be in the next five to 10 years?

Grace: I believe that sensors will play a major role in the advancement of medical diagnosis in the near future. Constantly lowering costs, smaller devices will be the reason that these sensor technologies will be adopted in the medical care arena. I am especially confident that printed/flexible/stretchable and functional fabric technologies will play an important role in this process as well.