The collaborative process can foster the kind of creativity and ingenuity that leads to the most innovative medical technology. In this Expert Insight, Nadia Hajjar, Category Manager for Life Sciences at Porex, provides perspective on the ins and outs of designing custom components, including leveraging customization to decrease device complexity and reduce component costs. Hajjar spoke with Medical Design Briefs about how the company focuses on innovation by identifying new materials even within their traditional material platforms and how deeper relationships with suppliers reduces the complexity and adds speed to the design process.

MDB: What are the main design considerations that go into customizing components, and how does Porex select the right material and technology?

Nadia Hajjar: Typically, we’ll pair the right engineer who has the right specialty and expertise with a project based on those parameters. In terms of design considerations, you can get it right the first time rather than having to go through iteration after iteration. And, where we do need to take additional steps to tweak a tool or a component, we have specialized programs to accelerate device design and component development so that it doesn’t slow you down.

We anticipate the stage in terms of the right material and technology. We prep on our end 100 percent of the time to answer those questions. We are always transparent with our considerations, which might include working with a formula, what kind of medication is being delivered, what kind of pH and viscosity it has, or what potential changes might be down the road.

Additional considerations on a design level would include flow rate — how fast the liquid is getting from one place to another, and potentially flowing to your device — and then we always think about pressure — whether it’s back pressure or otherwise, what is the intended pressure in the device that affects how the media is being moved outside of it. Purity requirements are so important in life sciences, and we have a team that specializes on material based on application. We’ve built a program around that with testing and data, and it streamlines the process for our customers so that they don’t have to worry or face complex regulatory questions.

MDB: What are ways to leverage customization to lower device complexity and cost?

NH: One of the benefits of having specialties and concentrations in different applications is that we know our markets well and deeply. A lot of times there’s an opportunity to truly understand the value in the part in terms of lowering the cost of devices. Oftentimes additional steps to remove a component can jeopardize the safety of the device or create additional steps not only for the user but for the design later. Looking down the line, are you adding value to your customer that way, or are you creating more expense later with user complexity or even jeopardizing some safety measures in the device that are that are necessary to create easy use and safe use of the device? To me the most value we can add is being able to reduce complexity and reduce overall cost of the design.

MDB: Given that, how do you balance innovation with design time, or are custom components slower to design and include in the device?

NH: Whenever you do anything custom, the first thing you think of is complexity. We spend a lot of time educating the team and getting talent who focus on the markets we are targeting. We’re not trying to be everything to everyone. That’s the great thing about Porex. We have a niche in the market, and we’ve built additional education for our customers. We have a pool of knowledge that our engineers can pull from to streamline processes. We adapt to you. We don’t make you adapt to us.

MDB: How does the Porex design team keep up with the device trends?

NH: The fun part of the job is innovation. We’re always identifying new materials even within our traditional material platforms. These can come in the form of additives or even hybrid materials. Really the sky is the limit, and no question is impossible. I’ve seen a lot of our MacGyvers do some creative things in a short amount of time because we are constantly building a pool of possibilities. Moving to biologics — mixtures of smaller and larger particles or just small particle molecules — we’ve adapted our core sizes and our materials to align with that. And we’ve even gone so far as to understand what the ideal flow rates are for different device designs on the market. We also add different functionality as it relates to trends, such as micro and nano filtration, different metered dosing technologies, or the ability to absorb oxygen in different applications. We’re constantly innovating around custom components.