Shanghai — U.S. plastics equipment maker Davis-Standard LLC is aggressively targeting the burgeoning Chinese market for medical tubing.
"Medical in China is really growing because the Chinese people see what the Western world has and they want the same thing," senior sales engineer Glenn Beasley said in an interview at the Medtec China trade show in Shanghai.
In China, as worldwide, the rise in new, non invasive medical procedures is fueling demand for medical tubing.
"It's the engineers devising these devices that are based upon the needs of the medical community for noninvasive surgical procedures," Beasley said. "That's what is ultimately driving the demand in China, in India, everywhere."
China's demand for medical equipment is growing 20 percent per year and is expected to hit 600 billion yuan in ($90.4 billion) in 2019, according to Medtec organizers.
Davis-Standard, which opened a manufacturing plant in Suzhou in 2012, hopes to tap a need within China for higher-quality equipment among medical device makers.
"We're trying to convince customers to spend the extra money to get Western quality equipment to make exceedingly tight tolerance of smaller and smaller tubes that Chinese companies cannot yet produce," Beasley said.
Davis-Standard, which is based in Pawcatuck, Conn., said its medical tubing lines support outputs up to 700 pounds per hour and line speeds up to 800 feet per minute for many materials.
At the moment, it feels it has an advantage in China with its screws, which the company designs and manufactures in-house, Beasley said.
"In another 10 years, Indian and Chinese companies are going to be catching up," he said. "It's just inevitable. But it hasn't happened yet."
For now, Chinese medical tubing makers tend to be risk-takers.
"A lot of our customers basically buy equipment with the goal of securing contracts," Beasley said.
He contrasted that with a more traditional market: "With automotive, it's the exact opposite. They don't buy equipment until they know they have a contract. Our [medical equipment customers] buy equipment hoping to get contracts."
Some customers go a step further and ask Davis-Standard to provide months of training, but the company declines.
"The biggest impediment for these guys now in China now is they don't have skilled operators," Beasley said. "It's really an art."
Particularly tricky to manufacture is radiopaque tubing, which enables a health care provider to see the tubing inside a patient's X-rayed body. Barium-sulfate stripes block the X-rays, but great care must be taken to ensure that the tubing is as fully flexible as conventional tubing, he said.
Protecting intellectual property remains a key concern.
"We try not to sell our extruders to Chinese OEMs who might then reverse engineer it. We try to keep as much control as we can," Beasley said.