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Orchid Blog

5 Trends in Orthopedic Product Design: An Outsourcing Partner’s Perspective

Posted: Monday, July 23, 2018

With advances in technology as the medical device market and regulations change, there have been shifts in the approach to orthopedic product design. We talked to some of our internal experts about the trends that they have noticed. Our team works with OEMs both through contract design and contract manufacturing and they have an inside look at current trends in the industry. Here is what they have been noticing lately:

1. Getting Automation into Manufacturing Processes by Implementing Internet of Things (IoT) 

There’s been a recent push from OEMs to incorporate automation into the manufacturing process. Why? There is less dependability on a human, which results in lower costs. Designers are responding by implementing IoT into processes. By connecting their assets to the internet, it gives them visibility to monitor how they are performing. Having this watchdog ability can also reduce the risk of failure because of its predictive capabilities. Thanks to IoT, companies are building models that can anticipate when a machine will fail and can be fixed by collecting data from the machine.

2. Customized Products for Patients

Finding the perfect implant for patients is becoming easier thanks to a recent trend in product design. Designers are receiving more requests to design patient-specific implants, which have the potential to perform better for the patient and reduce the likelihood of product failure. This trend, however, does come with some challenges. When creating a customized product, the process varies each time. This makes it more difficult to prove that risk has been reduced or eliminated from all aspects, but overcoming these challenges will help bring the product to market quicker and reduce the chance of failure.

3. OEMs Outsourcing Product Design

Developing ideas organically, putting the product through testing and launching it into the market can be expensive and involve a great deal of risk. Regulatory pathways prove to be a challenge, too, because they can limit the product design options. These are some reasons OEMs are moving away from designing products in-house and are now purchasing designs from other companies. OEMs are looking to purchase products with clinical data that proves the risk is as small as possible and there is a low chance of failure. In fact, many OEMs are so risk adverse that they won’t look at buying unless there is regulatory and clinical data available.

4. Increased Importance of Knowing New Technologies

Another alternative OEMs are taking instead of creating new designs is updating their current products. With money on their mind, OEMs are relying on designers’ expertise to come up with ways to make the same parts for less. One way designers can do this is staying up to date with technologies. When trying to incorporate cost reduction into systems, there are limits on what you can do with current technology. Staying on top of new technologies, however, allows designers to discover new ways to create a product for less. Designers should also be out in the industry, learning about new materials. There isn’t much variation when it comes to orthopedic materials, but designers should know the new materials being introduced into the industry to understand the best solutions for their products. As a contract design and manufacturer, keep up on materials to help guide your customers as well.

5. There’s An Explosion of New Software

There’s new software in the product design market that gives new meaning to “it’s all in the details.” As 3D printing becomes more advanced, so does its software. 3D printing software can now detail the design down to the exact porous coating you want on the implant so you’ll know what bone-in growth surface you’ll get. Manufacturing software has been impacted, too. There’s software that lets you know the energy consumption and inputs to the design of your product. Thanks to this explosion of new software, companies are able to take the original version of their product and continue to grow it from there.

BONUS TREND: A Prediction for the Future - Smart Implants

We live in a world where we are surrounded by smart products, such as smart phones and smart cars, so what other smart products do we expect in the next three to five years? Smart implants. Whether it is a smart knee or hip implant, patients will be able to monitor how the implant is performing through an application on their phone. Surgeons and the OEM who manufactured the product will also have access to the implant’s data, which can help them detect early failure and resolve the problem before it happens.

By Quinn Alexander, Executive Assistant, Orchid Orthopedic Solutions

Arley Perez, Senior Product Development Engineer, Orchid Design
Chris Scifert, Director of Engineering, Orchid Design
Brett Gopal, Senior Director, Innovation and Network Strategy
Justin Conway, Lead Additive Manufacturing Engineer, Orchid’s Memphis facility