8/29/2018 | 2 MINUTE READ

Medical Grows as Its End Market Slows

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While the baby-boom generation inexorably falls apart, bone screws, plates, rods, artificial joints and less-invasive surgical fixes indicate a bright future for manufacturers of the parts needed to help keep “Humpty” together. The trick for medical-part makers is keeping up with the evolving technology needed to meet industry demands.

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Let’s take a quick look at the medical industry as a whole. According to Michael Guckes, chief economist for Gardner Intelligence, quarterly filings of 70 publicly traded medical firms reveal an industry sector that continues to see growing cash flow and revenues. Wall Street forecasts for the medical industry revenues and earnings show strengthening 2018 results with peak revenue growth occurring in the second half of 2018. Business for the medical industry is good and looks like it will continue to be strong. 

For shops that supply the medical device industry, however, changes are afoot. To be mindful of these changes, supplier shops should explore some of the technology options and learning opportunities at IMTS

One overarching trend in the manufacture of medical devices is a reported consolidation of the supply chain that serves the original equipment manufacturer (OEM). While the contract supply chain for medtech probably won’t emulate the relatively rigid tier system found in automotive, it does have some similarities.

In the past, for example, contract shops were basically hired to produce what was needed by the next link in the chain. Today, these shops are making themselves more valuable to their customers by becoming involved with product development and process enhancement. This innovation is being rewarded with more dependable contracts to “one-stop-shop” suppliers as OEMs try to consolidate and streamline their supply chains. Smart contract shops are “upping their game” by acquiring technology solutions outside their traditional comfort zones. 

Two process technologies that are cornerstones for medtech manufacturers are five-axis machining and Swiss-type turning. These technologies continue to evolve beyond their original milling and turning purpose to include multitasking capabilities for the machining center in an effort to completely machine workpieces in a single handling. Likewise, the Swiss-type lathe is acquitting new capabilities in the form of laser cutting, welding and etching that also serve the goal of complete machining.

However, in an effort to count one’s business among the “one-stop shops” that medtech is looking toward, additional capabilities, all on site here at IMTS, are worth browsing. Operations such as grinding, EDM and additive manufacturing are increasingly being listed as “can-do” capabilities for medtech shops.

Software that can translate complex part geometries into useful tool paths as well as capture the data generated in a useful format need to be included in a portfolio. The bottom line is that medical-device manufacturing will grow for shops that commit to the industry sector’s needs today, keeping an eye toward its future. Just take a look at the demographics for baby boomers, Generation X and beyond. That’s an end market that isn’t going away.  

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