Market Snapshot: Medical disposables

All it takes is a look at U.S. demographics to understand why many molders and moldmakers are pinning their hopes for new business on the medical disposables market. Baby boomers, those of the post-WWII population surge that have produced “booming” demand for cars, houses, and many other things for the past 40 years, are entering the twilight of old age. Will that result in a booming demand for medical devices, products, and disposables?

Analysts say “yes!” The Freedonia Group (Cleveland, OH) offers up some market research supporting this forecast in a number of areas, reporting that U.S. demand for disposable medical supplies will increase 4.9% annually to more than $70 billion in 2011. The best growth opportunities are anticipated in devices such as dry powder inhalers, prefilled syringes, and blood glucose test strips for diabetes monitoring. While hospitals will remain the largest market for disposable medical supplies, the home healthcare market will grow faster as consumers broaden preventive medicine and self-treatment activities to save out-of-pocket health care costs.

Waldorf Technik cell

This system from Waldorf Technik automates a medical disposables line for pipette trays.

Waldorf Technik EOAT

End-of-arm tooling used in the molding cell.

Tech Mold test plate

Tech Mold's coining solution to its Black & Clear test plate allows the customer to run more tests simultaneously and get products to market faster.

Med Tech workstation pallet

MedTech's automated workstation pallet from Waldorf Technik is used for fast changeovers on a pipette system.

PEDI tray

PEDI's innovative answer to the 384-well tray for biological testing resulted in flatness of the molded well tray and clarity of the film as required by the customer.

These opportunities will come due to expanding numbers of home dialysis, IV, and respiratory therapy patients. Additionally, said Freedonia’s report, “improvements in design and efficacy are increasing the range of prefilled inhalers, prefilled syringes, and transdermal patches approved for direct patient use.” Gains will be led by these high-value-added drug delivery devices. Based on demand value, drug delivery, catheterization, and related products will remain the largest group of disposable medical supplies, with demand expected to increase 5.7% annually to nearly $35 billion in 2011.

The increasing incidence of chronic respiratory conditions, coupled with the need for safer and more effective therapies, will keep demand for inhalation drug delivery systems advancing favorably, to $21.9 billion in 2012 from $8.0 billion in 2002.

Demand for plastics for medical disposable applications is expected to approach 5 billion lb in 2012, due to a greater use of disposable medical products and sterile packaging materials, as well as the use of materials capable of withstanding intensive sterilization, says a Freedonia report on medical plastics. Demand for commodity plastics is expected to rise 2.3% yearly to 4.3 billion lb in 2012, valued at $4.6 billion. Leading commodity resins include PVC, PP, PE, and PS.

Engineering plastics accounted for 11% of the total volume of medical plastics in 2007, but a much higher 27% of total value, resulting primarily from the significantly higher price of engineering plastics compared to commodity resins. Demand for engineering plastics is expected to expand 5.2% annually to 630 million lb in 2012, reaching nearly $2 billion. Advances

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