The medical device industry is booming, and changing the way manufacturing is done in the process. U.S. industry shipped $43 billion worth of medical devices in 2015, according to the Department of Commerce. The market for mobile health (mHealth) solutions is one of the fastest-growing segments of the medical device market, projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 33.4 percent between 2015 and 2020 to reach a value of $59.15 billion annually by the end of that period, Markets and Markets projects.
As the medical device market grows, the latest manufacturing techniques are being applied to the production of medical devices, and as a result, medical manufacturing has come to represent the cutting edge of the manufacturing industry. Here’s a look at four of the technology trends driving the disruption of medical manufacturing and manufacturing in general.
The rise of mobile devices has shifted the internet to the cloud, giving rise to an interconnected mesh of devices now being called the Internet of Things. Manufacturing has felt the impact of this development, with 19 percent of manufacturing departments already using cloud apps, a figure projected to triple in 2017. Medical manufacturers are increasingly producing wireless, wired and hybrid medical solutions to meet the rising demand for connected devices in hospitals and clinics, imaging, and diagnostic centers and home healthcare consumers, a market expected to grow to over $1.344 billion by 2021.
The home healthcare market alone will see a compound annual growth rate of 8.85 percent between now and 2020, driven by consumers’ quest for more affordable healthcare solutions. Home healthcare devices connected to the cloud enable patients to be monitored remotely round-the-clock for better, more affordable management of conditions such as diabetes. Meanwhile, patients and imaging and diagnostic centers can share images in real-time over the cloud, dramatically accelerating the delivery of health care.
3-D printing is another technology disrupting manufacturing and the production of medical devices. The 3-D printing industry will triple to $21 billion annually by 2020, with 15 percent of this growth coming from medical manufacturing, a report by UPS and the Consumer Technology Association forecasts.
98 percent of hearing aids are already produced by 3-D printing, the report notes. Because 3-D printing works from a digital blueprint, which can be based on scanning input from a patient’s body, the technology is ideally suited to producing custom-designed medical devices. 3-D printing is proving especially useful for reducing the cost of manufacturing prosthetics. For instance, the e-NABLE global network of volunteers brings together physicians, engineers, 3-D printers and amputees to make prosthetic designs and devices more accessible and affordable.
3-D printing is also making it easier to customize medical equipment. For example, Apple Rubber uses 3-D printing and other technologies to make a catalog of customized o-rings in over 7,000 sizes available for medical seals and other devices.