4 Medtech Trends Show Value of Innovation

Posted On August 14, 2017 By Protolabs
3D-printed cast created by Exovite
Spanish startup Exovite is developing a 3D-printed cast to help set and repair broken bones and other injuries. Photo Courtesy: The Medical Futurist

The medical device and medical technology industry continues to be driven by innovation. Some sources estimate that, even in the current slow-but-steady-growth climate, medtech companies in 2017 will spend an average of 7 percent of revenue on R&D, which is higher than most industries.

As medtech companies bring innovative new products and services to market that emerge from those R&D efforts, those companies will look to rapid manufacturing processes for prototyping, functional and regulatory testing, and, ultimately, end-use production. 

Here are four recent, selected examples of those innovations.

Implant Targets Alzheimer’s

The recent death of country music legend Glen Campbell points to the deadly impact of Alzheimer’s disease. Progress has been made in pharmaceuticals, which can help slow the progression of the disease, but nothing reverses the effects of the disease.

A recent column in Med Device Online reports on a research project at Stanford University and the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub research institute. The project will develop and complete clinical evaluation of an implantable device intended to enable patients with Alzheimer’s disease—and other forms of dementia—to recover or retain memory function. The research project, which is being led by Ada Poon, an associate professor in electrical engineering at the University of California-Berkeley, is expected to take about 15 years. The first step, she says, is to prove her theory of what causes memory loss, and “develop a working prototype device on the bench.”

A 3D-Printed Cast for your Broken Arm?

Every year, more than six million people in the United States break a bone, and many of those injuries are enclosed with a fiberglass or plaster cast while they heal, a treatment that, as an article in MIT Technology Review points out, has been the same for generations. 

Now, though no product has yet to hit the market, casts are getting a modern update with 3D-printed casts that feature an open-lattice plastic design that’s customized to the individual patient. A number of companies around the world are working on this new technology, including Spanish 3D printing startup Exovite.

Digital Dentistry’s Evolution

Speaking of 3D printing, dentistry continues to use 3D printing and other digitally enabled technologies. Invisalign, the popular clear (transparent) alternative to metal braces for adults and teens, is probably the largest example of this usage. Every Invisalign aligner and retainer is created from a process that uses 3D printing.

Wearables to Shift from Tracking to Prevention, Healing

As previously reported on our blog, the global wearable medical device market was valued at just over $13 billion last year. Health care is among the fastest growing segments for wearables.

This segment, though, as Forbes reports, may be shifting from a focus on fitness or exercise tracking to prevention and healing purposes, addressing a variety of physical and mental conditions, from insomnia to depression, fertility, and back pain.