Composites are used in virtually every engineering project in the world today. From new aeroplane designs to Formula One cars, composites can help make things stronger, lighter, more durable, or cut down on production times. One industry where they’re perhaps making the most difference is the medical industry.
Currently valued at around $330 billion, the medical device market is experiencing rapid growth and innovation thanks to the use of composites.
These materials have been present in the medical industry for a long time, but will become increasingly prevalent over the coming decades as the materials become cheaper and easier to manufacture.
Why The Medical Industry Needs Composites:
One of the main reasons demand for composites is expected to boom in the medical industry is the constant demand for lightweight materials. Composites are a far more viable alternative to metals and alloys as they’re lighter and more resistant to corrosion.
In the medical industry there are a wide variety of uses for composites, in surgical instruments, orthopaedic products, and biocompatible implants.
Carbon fibre is one of most versatile composites in use for surgical procedures, thanks to its chemical inertness. It won’t degrade when coming into contact with other substances, and is strong enough to endure long procedures.
What Composites Are Currently Used For In Medicine:
Currently, the largest share of the medical composites market is taken up by diagnostic imaging at 40%, and this number is actually expected to grow even further by 2022. However, the fastest growing share is orthopaedics, predicted to make up just over a quarter of the market by that same year. America is currently the leading supplier of composites to the medical field, making up over a third of the market.
What Composites Will Be Used For In Medicine In The Future:
Composites are already making exciting prosthetic limbs, and this will only increase into the future as we unlock more interesting and powerful materials. The prosthetics market is worth $2.8 billion, and with the advent of 3D printing, more and more composites will be introduced into the medical field at lower cost, allowing for complex devices or products to be generated faster than through more traditional means of production.
But composites can be more than just building materials. Research at Yale University demonstrates that small imperfections in the topology of carbon nanotubes may provide an optimal surface for growing cancer-fighting cells. Carbon nanotube (CNT) polymer composites are being used to incubate cytoxic T-cells which can fight cancer.
The new technique is being tested for use in adoptive immunotherapy, an emerging treatment in which cells are removed from a patient, enhanced in the lab, and then injected back into the bloodstream to boost the patient’s ability to fight cancer. It works because the nanotubes provide a high surface area that is rich in surface defects. These defects facilitate the absorption of proteins, creating a structural environment similar to the body’s lymph nodes where T-cells would normally be produced.
Composites will be present in all of the biggest changes and technical revolutions over the next decade, and they’ve already made huge changes to things you use in your everyday life. As we will likely become more demanding in terms of healthcare over the coming decades, composites will make a big difference to our overall quality of life.
If you work with composites in any field, you have transferable skills that could be used in the medical industry. Get in touch today to find out more about working with composites.