Microspec CEO Tim Steele remembers when polyurethanes were relatively new. It was the 1970s, and the only polyurethanes were industrial grade, not medical grade.
Steele is a PEEK pioneer who founded Microspec in 1989 and opened up shop in Jaffrey, N.H. the following year. Microspec has grown and moved twice more, the last time to Peterborough, N.H., where it operates three shifts with 100 employees. The company designs and extrudes tubing for angiography, diagnostics, dialysis, electrophysiology, endoscopy, intravenous, laparoscopy, medical, PICC lines, surgery, umbilical uses.
Back in the Seventies, “a tube had one function, and that was it,” Steele told Medical Design & Outsourcing. “Today what they use tubing for, they put drugs in the compounds that the tubes are made of, in some cases to stay in the body and be absorbed by your body, and by the time the entire tube is absorbed by your body the drug has worked and you’re well. It is a completely different type of industry.”
Microspec’s prototyping team works with medtech companies to develop the types of tubing they need. “That team, we put our heads together and we come up with new ways of doing things,” Steele said. “We have more than several custom-extruded, custom-designed extrusion heads that we designed in-house and fabricated and that do some pretty amazing things.”
Steele keeps an eye on the trends as well. While he wouldn’t divulge specifics, he did give a sense of what’s new and what’s coming soon:
- Today’s biggest trend is in tubing’s functionality, with a tendency toward critical functions such as laparoscopic ablations, he said.
- Microspec is working on thermoplastic tubing that has different geometries on each end. The company started developing the concept five years ago, but couldn’t find any customers who knew how to use it until a few months ago, Steele said. Microspec plans to debut the new product at MD&M West in Anaheim, Calif. in February 2020.
- Steele said he’s been hearing of new types of polyurethane that will be used to make tubing for vascular access. The material will be designed to prevent thrombosis, so it might be antimicrobial or antiviral or resistant to cytotoxicity, he said.
“I would say within the next year, these materials will be in the marketplace,” he said. “It will be interesting to see how game-changing these materials are. Talk can be pretty cheap sometimes.”