Anaheim, Calif. — When it comes to holding a device together or adhering it to someone's skin, adhesives play a crucial role.
And, with so many choices available, medical designers can, well, come unglued a bit, making the best selection difficult amidst time and cost pressures.
Enter 3M Co. and its free new website tool: Find My Adhesives.
The Maplewood, Minn.-based company created an online resource for new and existing customers to identify the right adhesive materials for the job. Based on answers to project-specific questions, the digital tool suggests the best options, which ultimately improves the medical device's chance of success.
"This is the collective knowledge of our over 55 years in this industry into a tool that's easy to use. It starts conversations online that we can continue with our experts offline," Del Lawson, a laboratory manager in the 3M Critical and Chronic Care division, said at Medical Design & Manufacturing West, held Feb. 6-8 in Anaheim.
Product designers simply click on topics about a device's materials and purpose to get recommendations. No account needs to be set up. The first question asks if the adhesive will be used for a stick-to-skin device or to hold device components together, or to act as an overlay or device cover. Other questions take into consideration the product user's age — infant, child, adult or elderly — activity level — sedentary, active, average — and body part the adhesive will be contact with — head, face, other.
For example, based on inputs for a stick-to-skin adhesives to be used with medical devices worn 5-14 days by active adults, the website finds six matches, including a double-sided tape made from a polyethylene film coated with a tackified acrylic adhesive as well as several nonwoven tapes made from rayon, spun lace polyester or perforated ethylene vinyl acetate that are coated with a pressure-sensitive acrylate adhesive.
3M launched the online tool in January and web traffic to the site has been picking up, said Marcello Napol, global business director of 3M's medical materials and technologies unit, which is part of the health care business group.
"We monitor utilization of the tool, and it has been way beyond our expectations. We're expecting a lot of conversations as a result," Napol said. "In our experience, the earlier we can connect with prospective partners, the more problems we can avoid down the path. This tool gives them a better avenue to triage things earlier in their design process."
The medical adhesives and sealant market is growing at an annual rate of 7.9 percent and is expected to surpass $13.3 billion by 2025, according to Coherent Market Insights in Seattle, which says the market was valued at $6.8 billion in 2016.
The trend toward wearable devices is driving some of the growth.
"If you look at early generations of continuous glucose monitors as an example, they're big, bulky, heavy, and the adhesion challenges to the skin were immense. Then you'd have performance challenges," Lawson said. "Now as you get into better device design coupled with better software, algorithms and predictability, people can manage their condition more proactively as opposed to measuring on a skin prick level three to four times a day and getting data points. Now you've got a continuous curve with predictability. The device can alert you when you're about to go out of optimum range. You're taking proactive care of yourself, and multiple technology advances have allowed that to happen."
People who manage diseases like diabetes better on an outpatient basis can improve their quality of life while decreasing health care costs.
Tony Kaufman, who handles new business ventures for 3M medical materials and technologies, sees some of the trend toward wearables being fueled by consumers wanting to "hack their health."
"Maybe they have a chronic condition. Maybe they just want to preventative," Kaufman said. "If you have somebody with diabetes and they know an episode is coming on, if they know what triggers that event, they can lead a healthier life. Folks are becoming more invested in how they live, and that's hacking your health."