micro parts to market... faster


10/31/13    News on refinements to and new applications of micro molding hit the headlines daily these days, and at MES, we keep abreast of all these developments, and in many instances we are the ones making the news!!

Although by no means a new technology, many OEMs (and it has to be said many service suppliers to these OEMS), are still grappling with the tricky issues associated with molding parts and components at ever-smaller sizes. However, despite the inherent difficulties in using these technologies, the opportunities that are opened up once the discipline has been mastered are mind boggling, and so there is a massive increase in the micro molding market-place.

Micro injection molding is typically used for parts that are designed with weight less than a milligram and size less than 1mm, and it is also used on larger products that require micro-sized features.

As a supplier of micro molding services, we at MES can feel the surge in momentum as more and more OEMs approach us for help. But a report published this week on the global polymer and thermoplastic micro molding market really brings it home what a vast market this is becoming, and how quickly it is growing. The report — published by Dublin-based market research company Markets and Research — analyses the micro molding market for the period 2013-2019, and indicates that momentum is building across industry.1

The report indicates that it is the medical sector that dominates the market for micro molding, accounting for 35% of the total market in 2012. In the period up to 2019, it is the burgeoning area of microfluidics technology that will continue to drive the growth of micro molding in the medical arena. Microfluidic technology is used to control the behavior of gases and liquids at the micro scale, and has various uses in drug delivery, implants, and diagnostics (so-called lab-on-a-chip systems).

Regionally speaking, North America is shown to be the largest micro molding market, and is set to see double digit (14.5%) CAGR between 2013 and 2019, much of this driven by the exponential growth in components and devices that facilitate non-invasive surgical techniques. Europe is the next largest region, and is expected to account for 36% of global demand by 2019.

The report — and our personal experience at MES — reinforces the massive importance of the medical sector in the growth of micro molding. Here the drivers are smaller and smaller parts for invasive surgical applications, and a constant requirement for lower and lower manufacturing costs to ensure product viability.

So saying, it could be argued that the recent 2.3% sales tax on medical devices which came into effect January 1st 2013, could come as unwelcome news for medical device manufacturers in particular and the micro molding sector in general. But it is our feeling that this tax will in fact act as a spur to the micro molding sector, as manufacturers through necessity have to further sharpen their pencils and look for the most cost-effective and efficacious routes for mass manufacture.

As well as leading the way in the micro molding sector, the United States is also global leader in medical devices, but not by much, and it is quite possible that tax regimes such as the levy on sales (based as it is on gross sales not profit) could force a few manufacturers to look abroad for less punitive tax regimes. Some U.S.-based medical device manufacturers already feel somewhat beleaguered by the regulatory climate surrounding medical devices, and putting an extra tax burden on them could just be the straw that breaks the camels back.

But here, medical device manufacturers and micro molding subcontractors like MES should work together to find solutions, and indeed the government should also once and for all recognize the importance of, and back research initiatives in, the micro manufacturing sector. There is an obvious and much acknowledged gap between the sort of backing the micro sector gets in Europe and the backing it gets in the U.S. It is our view at MES that the critical role that a mature micro-manufacturing sector has in giving OEMS from across industry global competitive advantage must now be recognized.

At MES we work extremely closely witPowder Inhaler Componenth numerous medical device OEMs, and of course we have an intimate understanding of the regulatory hoops that have to be negotiated, and the technologies that fall under the micro manufacturing umbrella. But above all, we appreciate the fact that micro molding is a disruptive technology. It clearly breaks down preconceived barriers restricting product design and cost-effective manufacturability. So for many OEMs, it represents a key part of the solution when grappling with new tax hikes and an attempt to remain profitable and competitive.

It is incumbent upon medical device OEMs to recognize that micro molding opens up opportunities for smaller devices, with fewer components, and can reduce manufacturing costs, and increase productivity.

To remain competitive, and for the U.S. medical device sector to remain the global force that it is, OEMs must be encouraged to move away from conventional molding technologies, and costly alternatives such as machining. It is vital that OEMs speak with specialist providers such as MES to assess the technologies available, and to factor in the possibilities molding on the micro level opens up at the design stage, and also in respect of reduced overall manufacturing costs.

The medical device sector is not the same as the pharmaceutical sector, and the majority of U.S. based medical device OEMs are 50 employee SMEs. Yes, on the one hand, this means that they are smaller than their Big Pharma cousins, and are therefore more susceptible to tax hikes, but conversely they are also more agile, and can move more quickly to take advantage of new design and manufacturing possibilities.

There are moves afoot in Congress to repeal the excise tax on medical devices, but whether it remains in force or not, the inexorable move towards micro manufacturing and micro molding by medical device OEMs must continue for individual businesses and the overall U.S. industry to remain viable, and to continue to innovate and lead the world in important areas of healthcare.

MES remains ready to assist with your endeavours, and would be happy to discuss ways in which we can facilitate your micro designs, and mitigate your increasing costs of manufacture. To find out about how micro molding could be the key technology that will drive to your pipeline innovations, please call Donna Bibber, President of MES, on t. +1 (774) 230-3459  or via email on donna@microengineeringsolutions.com.

1. Research and Markets. “Global Polymer and Thermoplastic Micro Molding Market 2013-2019.” September 2013.


10/01/13       The use of bio-resorbable materials in the medical device sector is growing fast. Very early examples of such devices have a history that goes back some 40 years or so in the area of wound closure. Today, however, due to the advances in material technology and design and manufacturing techniques, resorbable devices are used throughout healthcare, but especially in the area of orthopaedics, controlled drug delivery, and vascular closure devices.

Typically the devices made from such materials are inert, such as screws and plates used in reconstructive surgery. MES has been and is involved in numerous projects using innovative bio-resorbable materials that cater to an array of medical applications.

In the medical area, there are a number of developments looking at ways in which power can be added to implantable resorbable medical devices, opening up the potential for implantable or ingested medical devices that can undertake therapeutic or diagnostic functions, and once the desired affect or results have been achieved, resorb into the body.

Such devices fit into a broader area of technology known in some quarters as “transient electronics”, which also has applications in the areas of environmental monitors and consumer devices. Using such technology, environmental monitors have the ability to dissolve and disappear once they have performed their function in such situations as chemical spills, oil spills etc…, thereby reducing environmental impact. In the area of consumer products, it is the effect that transient electronic components can have on the environmental fall out from frequently replaced products like mobile phones and personal electronic devices that has enormous potential.

MES is delighted to have been given permission to repost an extremely important article published by the Royal Society of Chemistry in the United Kingdom in the Journal of Materials Chemistry “B”, concerning biodegradable electronics using current sources fabricated from edible materials.

The move towards the use of edible materials which have conductive properties and which can biodegrade once ingested into the body opens up an array of new potential developments in treatment and diagnosis.

What differentiates these technologies from other transient electronic applications is the material used. Most research to date has been in the development of transient electronic components that are made from extremely small but high-performance electronic systems that are made from thin silicon sheets. These sheets are in fact so thin, that they will completely dissolve in-vivo, along with soluble electronic elements made from magnesium and magnesium oxide. The focus of research in this area is around ensuring a predictable rate of degradation to cater for different applications ranging from a few days to a number of months, which is achieved through encapsulating devices in different amounts of silk.

But the focus of the Royal Society of Chemistry article is in the specific area of active medical implants, using electrochemical electronic power sources that are composed entirely of edible materials and naturally occurring precursors that are consumed in normal diets. As such, the focus is on edible electrical sources that can power up medical devices that are taken by mouth and not implanted, i.e. non-invasive devices.

Their specific area of use would be in sensors that analyse gastric function, and also in novel drug delivery, and they are designed to deploy and power up when ingested. The article indicates how such technology can potentially be used for non-invasive sensing and tissue simulation.

MES believes that the developments in the area of transient electronic devices in general and edible transient electronic devices in particular will open up the possibility of numerous innovative medical devices and combination devices, and we will report on any advances in this area that have immediate commercial potential.

To discuss these innovative material developments and their impact on medical device designs, contact Donna Bibber, President of MES, on t. +1 (774) 230-3459 or e. donna@microengineeringsolutions.com

Journal of Materials Chemistry B

Self-deployable current sources fabricated from edible materials
Young Jo Kim, Sang-Eun Chun, Jay Whitacreab and Christopher J. Bettinger

Received 07 Feb 2013
Accepted 07 Mar 2013
First published online 07 Mar 2013

Flexible biodegradable electronics have the potential to serve as the centerpiece for temporary electronically active medical implants. Biodegradable electronics may exhibit many advantages over traditional chronic implants. Two important long-term goals for biodegradable electronics are (1) supplying sufficient power and (2) reducing the invasiveness of device deployment. Edible electronic devices are capable of addressing both challenges. Here, we introduce electrochemical electronic power sources that are compatible with non-invasive deployment strategies and are composed entirely of edible materials and naturally occurring precursors that are consumed in common diets. The current sources developed herein are powered by onboard sodium ion electrochemical cells. Potentials up to 0.6 V and currents in the range of 5–20 μA can be generated routinely. These devices could serve as an enabling platform technology for edible electronics used in non-invasive sensing and stimulation of tissues within the human body

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