EYE on MARKET vol.7

Technical innovation in regenerative medical devices

Technical innovation in regenerative medical devices

Environment surrounding the regenerative medical devices industry

The goal of regenerative medicine is the recovery of biological functions that have usually deteriorated due to disease, environmental factors and aging. The United States and Europe have dominated the regenerative medicine markets; however, Asian markets have been attracting increasing attention. Aging populations and improving standards of living, driven by significant economic growth in Asian countries have drastically expanded the need for regenerative medicine. Africa is also expected to become an important market in the future. These conditions suggest stable growth potential for regenerative medicine markets.

Predicted world population

Source: United Nations, World Population Prospects 2017

Regenerative medicine is classified into biological substitution and biological regeneration. Biological substitution is the use of artificial devices such as joints and bones to recover function. Biological regeneration strives to regenerate organs and tissue. Materials used in biological substitution are called substitutive devices. Although 3D printer technology for the production of surgical instruments and implants has found some practical application, the quality of this new method of manufacture remains lower than the existing methods, especially with regard to initial investment, material costs and manufacturing time, which serve as obstacles to meaningful progress.

Meanwhile, aging populations in Japan, the United States and Europe have had a serious impact on medical expenses, which in turn affects national budgets. This has prompted accelerated research and development in medical technologies to reduce total costs. Therapeutic technology using iPS cells, which exhibits great biocompatibility, is safe and reduces patient burden, is nearly ready for practical use. However, before practical application can be fully realised, medical care systems (insurance/ certification) must improve and hospitals are also looking to advance their technologies.

Predicted changes in population age in major countries

Source: United Nations, Word Population Prospects The 2015 Revision

Increasing demand for improved productivity and cost reduction

Substitutive devices are processed with cutting tools to a greater degree than general parts are. Hard-to-cut materials such as ceramics and carbon-fiber reinforced plastics (CFPR) have been increasingly used along with titanium, stainless and cobalt-chromium alloys. As new material development has advanced, machining has become a greater challenge. It is because of this, major medical device manufacturers face significant costs associated with research and development required to enter new markets. This forces cutting tool manufacturers to improve cutting technology and reduce costs through improvements in production technology to satisfy market needs.

Major substitutive devices

Substitutive device market prediction

Estimates by Mitsubishi Materials Corporation based on a major medical device manufacturer's annual report

Providing total solutions to the medical care industry

Effective use of cutting tools improves the processing of substitutive devices

Hard-to-cut materials such as cobalt-chrome, titanium and stainless alloys are often used for substitutive devices. This means extremely short tool life for the tools that machine them, which requires manufacturers to strive for improvement. Along with improved wear resistance, applications such as small diameters and deep holes in cobalt-chrome alloys used for substitutive devices present a challenge. Mitsubishi Materials has commercialised products that improve tool life and processing efficiency through the development of the base ingredients. As one of only a few cutting tool manufacturers that provide solutions for such an extensive range of complex applications, Mitsubishi Materials is highly regarded for processing hard-to-cut materials used by medical care device manufacturers in the North American market, one of the major markets for substitutive devices.

Total Tooling

Improvement Case

Improving customer satisfaction through enhanced proposals

Multi-task machining centres and five-axis machine tools have been used to manufacture complex medical device parts. These machines have made it possible to improve productivity while reducing manpower requirements, which has accelerated cost reduction. The increasing complexity of processing technology that such change brings makes proposals for improved machining and technical development through the enhancement of cutting tool performance. We are now required to provide total solutions utilising cutting tools, machine tools, CAM and analysis.

Mitsubishi Materials (MMC) has worked in cooperation with machine tool manufacturers and CAM software suppliers to implement multi-task machining centres (including small automatic lathes), five-axis machines, and a wide range of CAM to prioritise the enhancement of highly-advanced proposals. MMC continues to be a comprehensive cutting tool manufacturer capable of proposing customer-oriented and globalised total solutions for the substitutive device market.

Improving customer satisfaction through enhanced proposals