Fig. 2 – Recently introduced peelable heat shrink reduces downstream catheter processing, increases yield, and improves safety.
New fluoropolymer heat shrink removal techniques: Catheter construction has always been a delicate and laborious process that leaves no room for error. For years, tubing companies have heard from OEMs about the burden associated with the last step of removing the recovered heat shrink after the outer shaft reflow process. As the most critical and time-consuming step, heat shrink removal is where the greatest amount of production waste and longest cycle times occur. (See Figure 2)

A recent product introduction removed that burden with a peelable heat shrink. With a linear tear, workers were able to easily remove the heat shrink, improving efficiencies and workplace safety. OEMs using the product report reduced downstream processing, increased yield and minimal scrap, all of which resulted in cost savings.

Pad printing on PTFE: In a similar example, pad printing on polymers has also been around for years. However, this process has always been labor intensive and getting proper adhesion was often difficult or compromised, especially with PTFE. Recent advancements have made this process more effective, improving cycle times and ink adhesion.

Fig. 3 – Operations such as flanging, flaring, tipping, and more conducted by tubing suppliers can significantly enhance products while streamlining OEMs’ manufacturing operations.
Engineered surface tubing: Used for everything from custom profile slot liners to fiber optic sheathing and percutaneous delivery systems, engineered surface tubing enhances the lubricity on either the ID or OD (or both) of the polymer’s surface. Recently released findings indicate that a surface engineered PEEK tube was found to be up to 42 percent more lubricious than a standard PEEK extrusion. Engineered surface tubing offers engineers more material options with a wider array of properties without sacrificing as much lubricity as would typically be the case. This technology is most attractive in minimally invasive delivery systems and is being evaluated across a number of market segments and applications. (See Figure 3)

Streamlined process improvements for optimized tubing solutions: Vendor consolidation is a hot topic in the device industry. Streamlining process improvements for value added operations such as flanging, flaring, tipping, and more can represent significant product enhancements and eliminate downstream costs for medical device manufacturers. As cost containment and budgetary considerations continue to surface, the ability of a polymer tubing manufacturer to increase efficiencies and improve cycles times for OEMs is a crucial component to ongoing relationship management. Remaining mindful and showing an understanding of the OEM’s profitability needs is vital to long-term trust and partnership.

A Continuing Evolution

From pricing and sourcing to technical challenges and breakthrough innovations, the scope of the relationship between device manufacturers and component suppliers continues to evolve. OEMs will continue to seek expertise outside their walls for partnering. Anticipating this need, some polymer tubing companies have created multidisciplinary teams of technical experts available to meet in the field with device manufacturers anytime and anywhere in the world.

While it would have been easy to set innovation aside during budget cutbacks, the opposite effect has occurred. Extruded polymer tubing companies are stepping up their games and being proactive in delivering ideas and innovations to the doorsteps of medical device manufacturers, who are, more than ever before, willing to listen.

This article was written by Aubrey-Anna Sanders, Market Specialist, Zeus Inc., Orangeburg, SC. For more information, Click Here.