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Pushing boundaries in medical technology

Healthcare demand far outstrips supply in Asia and this gap is set to grow. This means the region offers prospects for innovative medical technology firms making devices that can raise productivity and improve patient health outcomes. Four such exhibitors at the upcoming Medical Manufacturing Asia 2018 talk about developing products on the cutting-edge of medical technology.

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"With my products, I'm targeting billion-dollar markets. For example, millions of catheters are inserted into blood vessels around the world every year, so the Swordcath system targets a very broad market." - Dr Ebnet.

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Babyplast is compact and uses relatively less electricity and the mould fitted on the machine is only a fraction of the traditional mould size.

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These 3D-printed models allow surgeons to study, prepare implants and practise complex procedures.

A simpler, safer way to inject life-saving drugs

MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS in emergency rooms are frequently called upon to perform complex tasks under high pressure - including delivering life-saving drugs directly into a patient's bloodstream using a catheter.

The potential complications from such procedures spurred Jens Ebnet - a specialist in anaesthesiology, intensive care and emergency medicine - to develop a safer, more efficient method of puncturing blood vessels.

The most commonly used technique for such intravenous procedures - called the Seldinger technique - is a laborious, multi-step process which requires sterile conditions, a whole array of different components, as well as help from an assistant.

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It can also be risky, especially since catheters often need to be inserted into one of the large vessels close to the heart in order for drugs to stabilise the patient's blood pressure and heart rate.

Dr Ebnet, the managing director of German start-up Ebnet Medical, developed Swordcath, a device designed to make catheter insertion safer, simpler and faster.

"My ideas are based on my broad working experience," said Dr Ebnet, who founded the company earlier this year and still works 24-hour shifts as an emergency physician.

The Swordcath packages all necessary components together and can be used to insert either large or small catheters into blood vessels or anywhere else. In addition to saving time, the device also eliminates the need for an assistant.

This makes Swordcath attractive for cost-intensive procedures such as in the operating theatre, Dr Ebnet noted.

The device is still in the development phase, though Dr Ebnet is "evaluating opportunities for business cooperation to make my products market-ready as soon as possible".

Besides Swordcath, he is creating a portfolio of projects related to medical catheters, building on his experiences as a doctor.

"With my products, I'm targeting billion-dollar markets. For example, millions of catheters are inserted into blood vessels around the world every year, so the Swordcath system targets a very broad market," he added.


Investing to serve the medtech sector

LOCAL CONTRACT manufacturer AMT is an integrated solutions provider to global medical device companies, bringing technologies from concept to market worldwide.

The company has become one of several local contract manufacturers which offer a complete, one-stop suite of services in a fast-growing sector serving major markets globally.

It is a unit of Temasek-backed medical device maker and medtech investor Accuron MedTech, headquartered in Singapore. Established in 1990, AMT started out in metal injection molding and became known for manufacturing highly complex parts for medical devices such as robotic surgical systems, graspers, jaws, endoscopy devices and surgical tools.

In 2014, the company expanded to high-tech solutions, adding 3D metal printing capabilities and patented unique technologies as it intensified its focus on the medical sector.

AMT became the first in the industry here to offer 3D metal printing to its commercial partners, allowing customers to custom design functional product prototypes. This means medical device designers can develop and test sophisticated products as well as leverage its contract manufacturing capabilities to produce them on a larger scale.

In 2016, AMT acquired Aurum Healthcare, transforming the company into a comprehensive, end-to-end medical device outsourcing specialist. Through the acquisition, AMT is now one of few providers of ethylene oxide (ETO) sterilisation, a process used to sterilise healthcare devices and instruments.

In addition, AMT has also invested in state-of-the-art cleanroom technology. It has Class 10K and100K cleanrooms in its Singapore facility, which occupy around 2,000 sq ft in Tuas. The Singapore operations provide assembly services and also produce SafeFlex laser fibre, a urology consumable for laser devices used in fragmenting kidney stones.

AMT's business has grown rapidly over the last few years. It now has 300 employees across three facilities across the region. In addition to its headquarters and medical injection molding facility in Singapore, AMT has a 77,000 sq ft machining plant in Dongguan, China and a 20,000 sq ft sterilisation plant in Malaysia.


Small is beautiful for Formative Tech

PRECISION micro molding company Formative Tech will be launching a new product at Medical Manufacturing Asia 2018 - a fully hydraulic injection-moulding machine that can produce small, precise components.

The company was founded in 2012 by a team of engineers who "saw the potential in precision micro moulding and dual shot injection moulding, which were not very popular back then", says director Lock Wai Meng.

Companies trying to produce micro components using big machines often end up with a high rejection rate, he notes.

"Big machines aren't meant to produce small parts. There's limitation to the parameters setting. The plastic material gets degraded from remaining inside the barrel for long periods, which causes damage. Therefore, the process gets very unstable."

Formative Tech is the exclusive distributor of the Babyplast range of machines in South-east Asia. The machine is compact and uses relatively less electricity. In addition, the mould fitted on the machine "is only a fraction of the traditional mould size", Mr Lock notes.

In addition to supplying equipment, Formative Tech also provides engineering support and solutions.

The company has recently acquired a software firm with the aim of integrating digital manufacturing processes with its machines. This will allow customers to monitor and make changes to production processes in real-time, from anywhere in the world.


3D-printed human anatomy models help surgeons hone craft

WHEN it comes to complex surgical procedures, good planning can be the difference between life and death.

But even the most advanced scanning machines - including X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - can only produce flat images, which means surgeons often have to rely heavily on their expertise and knowledge of the human anatomy.

This is where Creatz3D Medical Service Bureau comes in. Set up in 2016 as a division of 3D-printing technology provider Creatz3D, the company specialises in 3D-printing anatomical models for pre-surgical planning as well as training and simulation.

These 3D-printed models allow surgeons to study, prepare implants and practice complex procedures before going into the operating theatre. In addition, the models can also facilitate the development of new minimally invasive procedures, ultimately reducing overall surgery time, patient risk and increasing recovery rates.

"Due to the high level of complexity of the human anatomy, there is a lack of adequate medical simulation models in the market which serve as a viable alternative for pathological procedural skills training," says Creatz3D medical division accounts manager Nigel Yap.

The company's 3D-printed medical models can be made to simulate the various soft and rigid characteristics of the human body. Using the multi-material printing capabilities of its in-house 3D printers, Creatz3D Medical Service Bureau can recreate 3D-printed medical models in a range of textures from rigid to soft and rubberlike, simulating human tissues such as the organs and bones.

"These 3D-printed medical models provide essential tactile feedback that is necessary in the translation of procedural skills training for doctors of all skill levels," adds Mr Yap.

In addition, the models allow for repeated practice - valuable for complex and rare surgical procedures, and a more cost-effective alternative to using cadavers and animal specimens.

The company has been working with various government hospitals in Singapore over the past two years to create pre-surgical planning models. It has also worked with medical simulation labs to develop 3D-printed medical models for procedural skills training and simulation. There are also prospects for cooperation with medical device manufacturers, Mr Yap says.

The company plans to bring its products worldwide and is also looking at refining its technology to create more lifelike 3D-printed medical models.


Medical Manufacturing Asia 2018

When: Aug 29 - 31

Where: Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

Pre-register at www.medmanufacturing-asia.com

Why visit?

The Asia-Pacific region is expected to become the world's second largest market for medical technology by 2020. Riding on this growing demand, Medical Manufacturing Asia 2018 is an exhibition and conference featuring the latest medical technology for the region. In addition to thought-leading forums, workshops and technical presentations, the event will feature 250 global and regional exhibitors and more than 2,000 products.