Over the course of the past fifteen years I have concentrated heavily on plastics for the medical device industry and I have been fortunate to have witnessed the incredible advancements that have been, and are still being made in this industry. Robotic assisted surgery is surly one of those advancements.
Advancements in Hip and Knee replacement technologies have grown by leaps and bounds from where they were when I began working with device OEM’s and likewise, polymers have advanced quite rapidly too. Applications utilizing acetals were slowly surpassed by Polyetherimides and Polyphenylsulfones. Fifteen years ago PEEK was barely known unless you were involved with the Oil and Gas or Aerospace industries. Now, PEEK is used as a permanent implant in spinal, shoulder, and other applications. The rapid advancements of plastics has been side by side with as the technology of surgical procedures has progressed. Another area of growth for plastics in medical uses is that of certain polymers for both non-implant and implantable surgical procedures and these will continue to evolve as the technology moves ahead at warp speed.
Plastic Materials in Robotic Assisted Surgery
This brings me to Robotic Assisted Surgery. Fifteen years ago as this type of surgery was being developed with funding from both DARPA and NASA (see below for links to information about these agencies), little was really known about it. I’m sure many of the device manufacturers were aware that one day it would be a reality but I’m not sure how many truly believed that by 2014 it would become as prevalent as it is in todays surgical theater and how much it more it will transcend over the coming years. Today Robot assisted surgeries have been used in many procedures across many surgical disciplines including joint replacement, open heart surgery, oral surgery and a variety of others. These robot assisted surgeries are more precise than any human can perform and although there is still a surgeon at the controls, he or she is performing the surgery from a platform that allows the robot to actually make the movements that were once performed by the surgeons hands. The benefits to the patient are numerous and include less bleeding, greater accuracy, and less invasive, just to name a few. The future of this technology is virtually unlimited.
So why am I writing about robotic assisted surgeries in a blog devoted to Engineering Plastics? Good question. Because as we move into the next decade I believe we will see more and more polymers used in these robotic platforms. Maybe the applications of yesterday will be replaced with applications for the polymers of tomorrow. If a robot can determine that the UHMW implant for a knee arthroplasty is between 25 mm and 35 mm will there be a need to have eight knee provisional trials for that procedure? Maybe there will only be a need for four or maybe two or maybe none at all. In this day and age of less being more, as in less material waste and less time to production, robots could be the best new tool in the medical industry. One thing is certain and that is robotic arms will undoubtedly be using high performance plastics to ensure they can withstand the speed and precision ensure they can be deemed reliable for the long-term. This leads to the issue of preventative maintenance which will also be imperative in maintaining the effectiveness of these units. As we move forward, it looks as though robotic assisted platforms are here to stay as well as the plastic that is used in these platforms today and on into the future.
ThyssenKrupp Materials AIN Plastics Division
Sales and Marketing Manager
About Dave Piperi
Dave is the Sales and Marketing Manager for ThyssenKrupp Materials AIN Plastics Division Life Sciences product offering. His focus is on Medical Device, BioPharma and Analytical Equipment markets. Dave has been with AIN Plastics for 15 years and during his time has held several positions including Sales Manager of AIN Plastics New York and Territory Manager.
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