Composites, materials that only have to contain two or more natural or artificial substances, are all around us. The only other requirement is that the elements must have different characteristics, either physical or chemical.
Composite materials are in our bathtubs, our doors, our desks, our window frames, and several other places that we frequent or use daily.
Composite manufacturers have their products integrated throughout medical facilities and equipment all across the world. The innovations and ideas that are being used in and introduced to the medical community are seriously influencing the industry as a whole.
Do you want to find out all the ways in which composites are changing the medical industry? Keep reading to find out!
Which Composites Are Being Used in the Medical World?
Composites are used to make prosthetics. There is a $2.8 billion global market for prosthetics and body braces. It’s estimated that the U.S. market for prosthetic feet alone is 300,000 units per year.
The use of carbon fiber in prosthetic feet has improved those products greatly.
Composites are also implantable metal devices. One composites manufacturer created bone growth formulations. These formulations, such as screws and temporary bone supports, are used in orthopedic repairs.
Basically, the screws and other supports break down over time, allowing the body to grow the bone at the same time. These composites have been deemed safe by the FDA because they can be absorbed safely by the body. Furthermore, they can be customized for different absorption periods, depending on what that particular injury calls for.
Carbon fiber rods help heal fractures. Inserted into the central marrow, they align and stabilize the fracture. Plus, more often than not, these composite materials are radiolucent so that they are compatible with x-rays, CT, and MRI scans. These radiolucent components allow for better monitoring during the healing process.
Surgical seals are another composite material used in the medical community. This particular product is continuously improved. Sometimes, certain surgeries don’t allow for surgeons to use standard equipment for sealing up the wound. This is because the body cannot handle the exposure of lubricants used in those bone saws and drills.
Surgical tools with composite seals are proving to be much more efficient in certain circumstances. Also, they can endure many more sterilization cycles and at higher temperatures.
How Will These Composites Continue to Evolve?
There are many thermoplastic materials that have aided in the improvement of a variety of devices such as wheelchairs, x-ray couches, mammography plates, scanners, tables, surgical tools, and other accessories.
Components for large-scale MRI equipment, 3D printing applications, and orthotic and prosthetic devices are experiencing vast and continual improvement as a result of new and improved composite creations.
Composites aren’t just improving medical devices. They’re also enhancing things like wheelchairs and bedpans. They are even being integrated into cancer therapy.
When it comes to fighting cancer, researchers are using carbon nanotube (CN) polymer composites to incubate cytotoxic T-cells. These cells, are nicknamed “killer cells” in the medical community. This technique is being tested for potential use in adoptive immunotherapy.
Basically, what that means is that cells are removed from a patient, enhanced in the lab to become stronger, and then injected back into the patient. The removal and enhancement of cells would give patients a boost in their cells ability to fight those killer cells.
The metals that are often used in the human body as plates, screws, and rods are much too stiff. By nature, metal is more stiff than bone. But that stiffness can hinder a patient’s comfort and healing ability.
Composite trauma plates are made of polyetheretherketone (PEEK) polymer. That polymer is reinforced with continuous carbon fiber. They have the same mechanical strength as metal. However, they aren’t as stiff and also radiolucent properties.
How Are Other Materials Being Used in Composites?
It isn’t only the composites that are changing the industry, but the materials and devices that are being paired with composites as well.
For example, researchers have developed a sensor that can be incorporated into composite and textile materials. This new sensor is low-cost. While it’s relatively new, it may end up paving the way for smart clothing that can monitor human movement.
If used in a hospital gown, these sensors would be able to track patients health and needs.
There are many ways in which medical professionals and scientists are working together to create new products and devices by integrating new technology into composite materials for the medical industry.
Carbon fiber is used consistently in prosthetics because it’s such a durable composite. This same composite and one of the strongest metals on the planet is also used more in the world of sports. Here are the top 5 carbon fiber uses in sports.
Composite Manufacturers Are Making Waves
Medical advancements, as a result of composite use, are continuing to grow exponentially. The fact that we can use see-through screws in bodies and attach a limb to an amputee is impressive enough in itself. But the ways that composites are making their way into almost every single aspect of the medical world is undeniably amazing.
Did you know that composites allow for the creation of antibacterial walls? Those walls can do wonders for hospitals, where disease and infection are common.
Want to know more about the composite materials that we can provide as composite manufacturers? Check out our capabilities and the full range of manufacturing capabilities that we have.