Medical Device Design: Stainless to Plastic

Posted by Dan Leedom on Sunday, March 15, 2015
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Issues regarding out-of-control medical costs permeate our news.

A combination of the increasing share of the US economy represented by health care costs, the rapidly growing senior citizen population moving into their Medicare years, and the massive numbers of the uninsured and the newly insured will continue to put enormous pressure on medical costs. Any way you analyze it, medical cost control will likely be a challenge for a long time into the future.

Pressure to control costs is spread all around;  from physicians and support care givers to hospitals to medical device manufacturers.  For their part, medical device manufacturers must create medical devices that are not only reliable but also incorporate hospital, caregiver and physician efficiency into their ergonomic and functional designs. Approaches to achieve cost goals will require the transformation of devices. Their ergonomic design, material composition and the transition of some of the most expensive component parts from steel to plastic will all need to be considered. 

One of the trends emerging from this medical device re-design initiative is an attempt to eliminate of the need to sterilize devices from their use on one patient to the next. Expensive sterilization procedures, the risk of it being overlooked or ineffective, and the high cost of devices that can withstand the sterilization procedures; all beg for a different approach. Medical device designers are finding that approach in the substitution of sterilization-required stainless steel parts with plastic disposable parts – at least the parts that come in contact with a patient.

Consider these advantages of moving from stainless to plastic and from parts requiring sterilization to parts which are disposable:

  • reduced piece part cost to the device manufacturer
  • reduced equipment costs to the hospital
  • reduced labor and cost through the elimination of sterilization
  • reduced risk of contamination patient-to-patient
  • less device weight for physicians and nursing using the device
  • the elimination of the cost and maintenance of sterilization equipment

The key to the transition of parts from stainless steel to plastic is the selection, testing, qualification and continued quality assurance of the right plastic material. These considerations are so important that overseas supply should be avoided and the selection of a molded parts supplier limited to only those most knowledgeable about materials, experienced in medical parts plastic molding and certified in the highest level of quality. 

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For more information about how to achieve cost reductions of your plastic parts, please take a quick moment fill out our Inquiry Form or call us at 503-620-6950 ext.263

This blog was originally posted May 15th, 2012