Phillips-Medisize is investing significantly in new personnel and equipment in response to a trend in drug delivery toward smaller, smarter, wirelessly connected electronic devices.
Chris Conger, former VP of Research & Development at IntriCon Corp., joined the Wisconsin-based injection molder last year as Director of Technology Development and has been building a specialized staff of electronic engineers and other professionals in the electronics area. IntriCon, which has a history in hearing aids, focuses on body-worn miniature devices.
“There is a strong trend towards patients diagnosing and administering drugs themselves,” Phillips-Medisize CEO Matt Jennings said in a presentation at MD&M East in New York earlier this week. “For example, there is a greater than 10 percent compound annual growth rate in the insulin pen market.”
And now there is a trend for many patient-administered devices to incorporate electronics with wireless connectivity so that care providers can monitor if dosages are being applied in a timely and accurate manner. The release of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) in 2010 is allowing devices to send electronic messages into the Cloud via smartphone apps.
In an interview with The Molding Blog following presentations at MD&M East, Chief Technology Officer Bill Welch said that the trend fits right into Phillips-Medisize’s sweet spot of complex molding: micro molding, encapsulation through multi-shot to ensure excellent sealing, in-house design and tool building, and the ability to mold with metals when necessary.
So far investments in new testing capabilities are taking place in the company’s Wisconsin plants, but could expand globally soon. The company has more then10 years’ experience in “mechatronics”, or the incorporation of electronics into mechanical structures at sites in and outside the United States.
According to a forecast presented at the New York show, the market for drug-delivery devices embedded with electronics will grow from about one million units in 2014 to about 70 million units in 2018. The biggest growth will be incorporation of electronics into pens used by diabetics to regulate blood glucose. (See graphic.)
Pharmaceutical companies are beginning to migrate wearable devices into other treatment areas, such as pain management, oncology and neurologics. In one example cited by Jennings, Amgen recently announced development of an on-body biologic auto injector for an anemia treatment following chemotherapy.
In response to questions from The Molding Blog, Welch also made these comments about developments at Phillips-Medisize:
- The company has kept an eye on the Liquidmetal amorphous metals technology, but so far it’s not a fit. “Liquidmetal is an interesting technology that we have followed for many years, and will continue to follow, but the opportunity and fit for our customers’ products has not yet emerged.”
- There is “solid growth” in Phillips-Medisize’s thixomolding (liquid magnesium molding) business, “fueled by electronics enclosures and durable components for auto, consumer, defense, and automotive.” The company also has a large stake in powder metal injection molding, particularly for components such as jaws used in surgical devices.
- Capabilities in the company’s new development center in Suzhou China will be brought along gradually. “The Suzhou facility will follow our proven process to launch and grow development centers, starting with a strong core of DFM, simulation, and developmental tooling.”
- The company is making tooling components with additive manufacturing processes that can create complex shapes such as channels for cooling. Service bureaus are used to produce the parts.
- Phillips-Medisize has been expanding its micro molding capabilities, buying commercially available machines that then receive proprietary modifications.