Emergence of lightweight and heat-resistant composites, increased use of fiber reinforced composites and evolution of novel materials are the factors contributing to the growth of the global medical composite materials market. Polymer matrix composites- viz: reinforced plastics and advanced composites, are used in the manufacture of medical prostheses and implants, surgical instruments, orthopaedic products and biocompatible implants. Information on biodegradable high-strength composites that could potentially replace metal in implants is also shared. To know about the developments in this sector, innovative technologies, high growth applications, growing regions, etc, read
Developments in polymer composites to create opportunities for global medical composite market
The global medical composite materials market is forecast to register a CAGR of almost 7% until 2020, according to Technavio. North America is the leader in terms of consumption of natural fiber and glass fiber medical composite materials owing to the rising number of manufacturing industries in the region.
Chandrakumar B Jaganathan, one of the lead metals and minerals research analysts at Technavio says, "The medical composite materials market in North America was valued at US$1.77 bln in 2015, and is estimated to reach US$2.42 bln by 2020, at a CAGR of 6.46%. The medical composite materials market in this region will grow rapidly during the forecast period due to the rising use of these materials for dental applications."
The report highlights the following three factors that are contributing to the growth of the global medical composite materials market:
* Emergence of lightweight and heat-resistant composites
* Increased use of fiber reinforced composites
* Evolution of novel materials
Polymer composites are lightweight and heat resistant, and hence can be used as alternatives to metals and alloys. Polymer matrix composites have been used in the manufacture of medical prostheses and implants over the last decade. These composites are divided into reinforced plastics and advanced composites. Advanced composites contain approximately 60% of resistant continuous fibers made of carbon, glass or aramid materials.
They are increasingly being used in medical equipment such as surgical instruments, orthopaedic products and biocompatible implants. These materials are preferred over metals like aluminium, stainless steel, and titanium because they offer the following advantages:
* Heat resistant
* Easy customization
* X-ray translucent
Vendors are focusing on the use of polymer composite materials for the development of modern orthopaedic and prosthetic devices owing to benefits such as heat resistance. The strength-to-weight ratio and biocompatibility of these composites are high compared to those of monolithic materials. These features have led to their increased use in the design of prostheses for both hard- and soft-tissue applications.
"Innovative technologies such as porous composite materials for tissue engineering, functional coatings for metallic implants, and sensory feedback systems will be introduced in the market during the forecast period. The development of products like customized carbon-fiber sports prostheses allows people with lower-limb amputation to participate in competitive sports. Carbon fiber composites are used in implantable medical devices and surgical seals. They are implanted into cartilages to stimulate the resurfacing of damaged areas owing to their radiolucency and high strength-to-weight ratio," adds Chandrakumar.
Novel materials are said to possess unique properties that are widely used in different industries such as medicine, micro-electronics and other fields. These novel materials are plastics, metals, and ceramics. The expansion of the global medical market has led to product innovations and consumer acceptance of devices such as pacemakers. Technavio analysts expect the global medical devices market to account for US$400 bln by the end of 2020.
For instance, the evolution of innovative composite materials eliminates the use of donor bone tissues in bone grafting surgeries, thus reducing pain and infection involved with the process. Innovative medical composite materials such as polymer ceramic, fiber, and polymer metal composites offer the following benefits:
Lightweight, Chemical resistance, Rigidity, Corrosion resistance, Low maintenance
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As per Research and Markets, the global medical composite material market for orthopaedics to grow at a CAGR of 7.23% during 2014-2019. The global medical composite material market can be segmented into three divisions based on type: Fiber composite, polymer metal composite, and polymer ceramic composite. Fiber composites are lighter and renders great external impact resistance, and thus is used in manufacturing various components such as prosthetics and implants. A new class of composite materials formed through nano technology is being used in the field of soft tissue implants. These nano fibers are used for various applications in the medical field. In addition, nano fibers have good durability and adhesive properties. Synthetic bioactive and bioresorbable composite materials are being used as scaffolds in tissue engineering. Nano fiber scaffold fabrication is cost effective and user-friendly. Nano fibers also help with problems relating to inadequate cell infiltration. According to the report, medical composite materials are being used in implantable medical devices. Composite materials help in biocompatibility and osteoconductivity. Biodegradable polymers are modified with a ceramic component to form implants. Carbon fiber/PEEK polymer composites are also being used to manufacture orthopedic implantable material as other materials can lead to osteolysis and implant loosening. Corrosion is the major cause implant failure. Further, the report states that volatility in raw material prices is one of the major challenges confronting the market.
German company Evonik is conducting research into biodegradable high-strength composites that could potentially replace metal in implants used for the internal fixation of fractured bones. Implants play a key role in supporting bones until they heal. Today's metallic devices typically remain in the body for the rest of the patient's life or require additional surgery for removal. By contrast, devices made with Evonik's new composites will be absorbed by the body gradually once the bone healing process has taken place. These materials consist of polymers and of substances that naturally occur in bones. Evonik's research is still in its early stages.