Materials Innovation is the Next Frontier for Medical Devices

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See this article by QuesTek CTO Jiadong Gong and CCO Severine Valdant as it originally appeared in Med Device Online.

Materials Innovation - Medical Devices

In many industries, including medical devices, the material has become the constraint. Following years of technological and engineering innovation, medical device designers are increasingly challenged by the limits of what the materials at their disposal can do.

It’s not surprising. The suite of materials used in medical devices hasn’t changed much in decades. When a material is proven to be biocompatible, safe, and effective, swapping it for a new material — and the qualification process that would require — is understandably daunting.

As device manufacturers look for ways to innovate and compete, novel materials present an underexplored avenue to unlock greater performance. And digital transformation in the materials sciences has reduced the time needed for qualification.

How can device manufacturers begin to consider what the alternatives to standard materials might allow for in a given medical application? And what would that process look like?

Materials Concurrency And The Corners Of The Design Space

In medical devices, there are some fairly rigid requirements with which to contend. Biocompatibility, for instance, is not negotiable for products that will be in direct contact with human tissues or fluids. Materials engineering is all about optimizing trade-offs between desirable properties.

Under traditional trial-and-error approaches to materials science, a requirement like biocompatibility proved extremely difficult. However, digital tools using computational physics can factor in biocompatibility as the baseline and explore all other variables while circumventing traditional materials science trial-and-error approaches.

How much can we increase one property without compromising other requirements? This is what we call the “corners of the design space.” These corners are where true innovation happens. The materials currently in use for medical devices are often not fully optimizing all of the properties that drive the performance of a product.

Novel materials are most effective at expanding the realm of possibility for medical devices when designers use a materials concurrency approach — in other words, designing a product and the material it is made of simultaneously. Uncovering the best possible elemental composition and manufacturing process for a given application is a competitive advantage for any medical device manufacturer.

Continue reading at Med Device Online.