By Nisan Lerea, CEO, WAZER
The medical device industry faces numerous challenges, with manufacturers striving to meet the demands for more sophisticated treatments and devices while managing rising costs. Outsourcing production has been a common practice to reduce expenses, but it comes with risks, such as extensive delays, compromised quality, and supply chain vulnerabilities — all of which can contribute to supply shortages.
To overcome these issues and protect supply, manufacturers need the ability to produce in-house at a low cost. Fortunately, the invention of affordable computer-numerical-controlled (CNC) machines, from 3D printers to desktop-sized waterjet cutters, is transforming medical device production. These advanced technologies enable manufacturers to streamline prototyping, enhance cost efficiency, improve supply chain resilience, and foster innovation.
Streamline prototyping and iterate faster
Prototyping is pivotal in medical device development, enabling engineers to refine and validate designs before moving to production. However, limited access to industrial manufacturing tools has traditionally caused delays, hindering the timely introduction of innovation to the market and exacerbating device shortages, affecting patient care and healthcare provider operations.
The emergence of advanced manufacturing technologies, such as waterjet cutters and other compact CNC machines, is revolutionizing the prototyping process. These state-of-the-art tools empower engineers to create fully functional prototypes in-house, eliminating the need for outsourcing and significantly reducing the time required for iterations and alterations. The benefits of streamlined prototyping are manifold, offering a faster and more efficient path from concept to market-ready devices.
Rapid, in-house prototyping fosters iterative collaboration and real-time feedback among multidisciplinary teams, enabling engineers to incorporate input from different perspectives. This ensures that all stakeholders are aligned and actively involved in refining the design, leading to more robust innovations.
Streamlined prototyping also helps mitigate device shortages. Accelerated prototyping enables companies to identify and address bottlenecks, design for optimized manufacturing, and scale production faster. With faster iterations and improved operational efficiency, manufacturers can reduce lead times and enhance their responsiveness to changing market dynamics to ensure an adequate supply of critical medical devices.
Enhance cost efficiency and profitability
While intended to reduce expenses, outsourcing medical device production has also been associated with significant costs, including transportation expenses, vendor markups, and potential supply chain disruptions. These costs can strain manufacturers’ budgets and compromise overall profitability.
The affordability and ease of operation of desktop CNC machines make them a cost-effective alternative. Manufacturers can invest in these advanced technologies at manageable price points and decrease expenses by producing prototypes, finished parts, tooling, and fixtures in-house. With reduced outsourcing expenses, companies can allocate financial resources more efficiently, reinvest in research and development, and optimize other critical business areas.
Manufacturers can also optimize workflows by eliminating bottlenecks and achieving higher production volumes. The precise cutting capabilities of waterjet cutters, for example, reduce material waste and enhance efficiency, minimizing costs associated with material consumption. Compact waterjet cutting technology allowed one medical manufacturer to reduce the cost per piece by 82%, including materials.
Additionally, compact CNC machines provide the ability to scale up or down production volumes based on market demand without being constrained by external vendors or lengthy lead times. By adapting production capabilities to changing market dynamics, manufacturers can avoid excess inventory costs, reduce waste, and optimize production schedules. The flexibility afforded by advanced manufacturing technologies enables companies to respond swiftly to market fluctuations, ensuring that resources are efficiently allocated and profitability is maximized.
Improve supply chain resilience
Global supply chain vulnerabilities become evident during crises, exposing the risks of offshore production. Contrarily, in-house production allows for greater control and reduces exposure to external factors, enabling swift responses to changing demands and unforeseen circumstances. The flexibility and agility of desktop CNC machines strengthen the overall supply chain and mitigate the risk of shortages in critical medical devices.
With in-house technology, medical device manufacturers can adjust production volumes, specifications, and designs based on market demands and evolving regulatory requirements. They can also customize devices to meet the unique needs of healthcare providers and patients, reducing dependence on off-the-shelf solutions. By using advanced, compact manufacturing technology like a waterjet cutter, a medical manufacturing company was able to reduce the turnaround time for manufactured parts from 16 weeks to just several days.
Also, by directly overseeing the manufacturing process, manufacturers can implement rigorous quality control measures and ensure that their medical devices meet stringent regulatory requirements. The ability to control and monitor every aspect of production, from design to manufacturing to final inspection, enables manufacturers to maintain the highest quality, safety, and reliability standards. This level of control and compliance further strengthens the supply chain’s resilience and instills confidence in healthcare providers and patients.
Empower customization and innovation
Advanced manufacturing technologies unlock new possibilities for innovative and customized medical devices, such as surgical instruments, anatomical models, and surgical guides. Such localized production enables tailored solutions for patients and promotes improved healthcare outcomes.
For instance, integrating waterjet cutters and CNC machines facilitates solutions that cater to patients’ specific requirements, ensuring optimal fit, functionality, and comfort. It also enables intricate and complex component design and production. Plus, with direct control over the manufacturing process, manufacturers can experiment with novel materials, geometries, and functionalities, fostering a culture of innovation and enabling the development of cutting-edge medical devices that address unmet clinical needs.
In-house production also promotes collaboration and co-creation between manufacturers, healthcare providers, and patients in the design and development process, ensuring that medical devices meet end-user needs and preferences. This approach leads to better-designed products and strengthens the relationship between manufacturers and the healthcare community. By fostering open communication and feedback loops, manufacturers can continuously refine and improve their medical devices, resulting in a more patient-centric and user-friendly healthcare ecosystem.
Revolutionize medical device production
Adopting advanced manufacturing technologies will become increasingly crucial as the medical device industry evolves. Manufacturers that invest in these technologies position themselves for success by gaining greater control over their production processes, reducing costs, and delivering innovative solutions tailored to the needs of patients and healthcare providers. By embracing the power of advanced manufacturing, the medical device industry is poised to overcome challenges, drive advancements, and shape the future of healthcare.