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What Role Does Material Development Play in Medtech?

Materials play a big role in the medical device world. Here's how one supplier is helping to drive trends in drug-delivery devices and more.

At MD&M West in Anaheim, CA, Covestro introduced a new high-flow polycarbonate designed for wearable medical devices, surgical instruments, drug-delivery devices and more. The company also introduced own connected drug-delivery device concept using Covestro materials. The concept device was developed by engineers from the application development group at Covestro.

Covestro LLC

In the fast-paced world of medical devices, sometimes it's easy to get so caught up in the latest trends and the end product that we don't stop to think about all the research and materials science involved with making the product possible. At MD&M West 2019 in Anaheim, CA, one supplier showed how the growing trend of miniaturization and connected healthcare is impacting how products are made.

Leverkusen, Germany-based Covestro, one of the world's largest polymer companies, developed Makrolon Rx2235 polycarbonate, a new medical-grade polycarbonate with high-flow properties designed for a variety of healthcare applications from wearables to surgical instruments. The new polycarbonate is expected to help manufacturers fill very thin walls and accurately replicate intricate design features with lower pressures. It's biocompatible and also designed to withstand gamma or e-Beam sterilization, which is particularly important in the healthcare environment.

"Makrolon Rx2235 polycarbonate is a significant addition to our broad range of medical polycarbonates," said Doug Hamilton, global healthcare segment leader for polycarbonates at Covestro. "This is just the latest example of how we continue to innovate and expand our polycarbonate portfolio, giving healthcare OEMs access to the advanced materials they need to design, develop, and produce their next breakthrough."

Hamilton told MD+DI that he attended the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in January to see how Covestro's products align with the messages that OEMs were conveying to the investment community. It's no surprise that one of the key takeaways for him was the increasing importance of wearable devices in the industry, along with home healthcare devices that create an opportunity to take costs out of the healthcare system, improve the patient experience and compliance, and also improve physician monitoring.

"They're almost like a control tower of patients where they're checking to make sure the vital signs are aligned, checking to make sure patients are taking their medications, it's really the future vision of healthcare, it's very interesting," Hamilton said.

Meanwhile, Lauren Zetts, North America market manager for healthcare and consumer products at Covestro, was at the Digital Health Summit at CES hearing similar messages.

"With the launch of this new high-flow material, drug delivery devices is really a key application," Zetts said. "So we created our own connected drug-delivery device concept, which we introduced at MD&M West, using our materials and really highlighting how you can use our materials in this particular concept. And of course, as we know, connected is really the future for healthcare ... we definitely see that in drug delivery as well. We see it taking on different forms, whether screens are on the drug-delivery device itself or maybe it's just communicating with your smartphone or smart device, but what we display in this particular concept is different indicators on the screen and how it can communicate and remind you of when you need to take it next with the thought of improving compliance using different lighting indicators to show when the drug is actually ready to be injected."

Zetts also said that with some drugs it's very important to know what temperature the drug is at before it is injected, so that's another example of how lighting indicators would be useful.

"We're really trying to do what we can to show how our materials can help make that happen in a drug-delivery device," she said.

Engineers from the application development group at Covestro combined their knowledge of healthcare trends and technologies across multiple industries to develop the concept drug-delivery device to benefit device manufacturers and, ultimately, patients. The concept was in development for more than a year.

"What hit me was how engaging with the consumer blurs the lines between a healthcare device and a consumer electronic," Hamilton added. "The design and the interface is very much aligned with the consumer and you start to see some of the design features pulling in from some of the leaders in that area. And, in fact, you see companies like Apple, like Google, getting involved in connected digital health and positioning their devices in the wellness space."

The drug-delivery concept device is different from devices currently on the market, said Jesse McCanna, principal engineer at Covestro. He said the device is designed not to look like a typical drug-delivery device in an effort to make it more user-friendly, and increase both comfort and patient adherence.

According to the company, the concept incorporates a direct skinning/direct coating technology, providing exceptional tactile qualities for patients as well as streamlined, efficient manufacturing possibilities. While the technology is not new, it has rarely been used beyond automotive applications. In this design, direct coating is used to encapsulate the body of the device, creating a hermetic and tamper-resistant seal. Both high gloss and matte finishes are present on the outer surface, and the haptics (soft feel) can be varied based on the polyurethane chemistry used. Compared to traditional spray coating, direct coating offers increased design flexibility and streamlines manufacturing, while avoiding paint overspray and the release of volatile organic compounds, Covestro noted.

“With this drug delivery concept, we want to demonstrate possibilities of what the future could be like for manufacturers and patients – and how Covestro polycarbonate solutions can help make it happen,” Paleos said.

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