COMPAMED 2015: The medical technology miniaturising trend marching on -- MEDICA - World Forum for Medicine
COMPAMED trade fair in Düsseldorf

COMPAMED 2015: The medical technology miniaturising trend marching on – suppliers are offering solutions for various applications

Reality in the future? Nano-robots as a medical transport unit for penetrating into tumours

“The success of the COMPAMED can be explained as the result of closely integrating development processes on the part of the suppliers as well as on the part of their customers,” said Joachim Schäfer, managing director of Messe Düsseldorf, explaining in a nutshell why, in addition to visiting the world’s largest medical trade fair, MEDICA, also visiting the internationally leading trade fair for the supplier market of medical technology represents an opportunity to view into future and look at current trends with regard to medical technology innovations. Always scoring top annual results in reference to the number of exhibitors and visitors, COMPAMED has long since developed into the leading international marketing communication platform for suppliers of the medical technology industry. For the first time, the COMPAMED will be held at the very same time as the MEDICA from 16 to 19 November 2015. To date, COMPAMED has always ended a day earlier. From this year on, it will also be new that the trade fair will be running on the weekdays from Monday to Thursday.

The added time for discussions with your customers from the medical technology industry, namely a substantial number of around 4,500 MEDICA trade fair exhibitors, should be very much in line with the, once again, more than 700 exhibitors of the COMPAMED (in trade fair halls 8a and 8b). This is because the market for medical technology and medical products is very dynamic. The innovation cycle is considerably shorter than is the case in other industries. In the process, the development competence of the suppliers, in part, is often the point of origin for ground-breaking innovations with regard to efficient and effective medical care.

For example, this also applies to further increases in the level of miniaturisation. An especially extraordinary example, which currently brings science fiction to mind, entails nano-robots in the bloodstream that autonomously carry out operations. Corresponding with these ideas, the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Intelligent Systems (Stuttgart) have developed two different micro-swimmers. Thereby, on the one hand, it has to do with a type of clam that moves forward by opening and closing as well as a screw that moves forward by means of rotation. Its diameter is only 100 nanometres; its length 400 nanometres. A rotating magnetic field that is applied externally sets the mini-screw into motion. The manufacturing process for the special swimmers is 3D printing, which is increasingly gaining in significance for a wide variety of applications at the COMPAMED. All materials used, such as polydimethylsiloxane, are biocompatible and body compatible. Researchers imagine that, one day, nano-robots will introduce tumour therapeutic agents directly into the tumour. “Theoretically, at the size of our construction, application within the cell would be conceivable,” explained Peer Fischer, head of the working group Micro-, Nano- and Molecular systems at MPI for Intelligent Systems. In any case, the mini devices should contribute to making interventions minimally invasive, improve their effectiveness and shorten the times spans required for such interventions. However, a series of years may go by until this science fiction becomes a reality.

Small but impressive and with the highest level of precision

In the meantime, many “mini” solutions have now already become a reality since the demand for increasingly smaller systems remains constant in the field of medical technology. “The life-science industry is showing an increased demand for the miniaturisation, micro-structuring and an integration of optical and electrical functions in inexpensive components,” confirmed Peter Kirkegaard, CEO of IMT Masken und Teilungen AG from Switzerland. IMT addresses this need using manufacturing technologies deriving from the semiconductor industry. Based upon glass, the company manufactures micro-channels, clearance holes, electrodes, optical and electrical coatings, waveguides and grating – the smallest structures have tiny dimensions down to only 150 nanometres. Their fields of application include lab-on-a-chip systems, among other things. Micreon GmbH also acts as a contract manufacturer – the company is among the world-renowned specialists for micro processing using ultrashort pulse lasers within the pico and femto range. The laser is playing an increasingly important role in manufacturing medical implants, instruments or measurement devices in the field of medical technology. Since the highest level of precision and quality is required in the case of medical products, especially for the ultrashort pulse laser technique, an increasing number of application possibilities are arising. An example includes vessel wall supports (stents) made of organic materials. Since the bio-resorbable polymers are very sensitive to temperature, the femtosecond laser is the only tool used for manufacturing refined and structured components without any damage.

Record participation at the IVAM joint stand

IMT und Micreon are being represented along with around another 50 exhibitors at the joint stand of the IVAM professional association for micro-technology, which will once again be forming a focus for microsystem technology, nanotechnologies, production technology and process control in hall 8a. “This is a new record; our floorspace comprises almost 700 square metres,” explained Mona Okroy-Hellweg, speaker for the IVAM. Also this year, the professional association is organising the COMPAMED HIGH-TECH FORUM (Halle 8a). Along with the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, one symposium deals with the topic that is gaining an increasingly important role, also in the field of medical technology: Printed electronics. In addition, the topic of this year’s spring forum “Lasers – Optics – Photonics” will be focussed on during a symposium. “Since many sensor manufacturers are represented at our stand, we additionally work on a session on the topic of “Smart Sensor Solutions,” said Okroy-Hellweg.

The COMPAMED SUPPLIERS FORUM is taking place in parallel again in hall 8b, which is traditionally being organised by the trade magazine DeviceMed. The focus of numerous presentations by specialist from internationally leading companies entails current development along the entire process chain. “On all four days of the trade fair, exhibitors will be providing information on technical innovations and further topics within the scope of the interplay between manufacturers, suppliers and physicians or users. Beginning with innovative materials as a basis of many new technical innovations to the user-centred design of medical technological applications according to IEC 62366 and miniaturisation system, the entire process chain is represented, all the way to the topics of packaging, market access and approval,” reported Peter Reinhardt, editor in chief at DeviceMed. This year, presentations on delivery performance in the fields of medical technology, including presenting tools and parameters for improved performance are new. The “Innovation Guide”, initiated by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research, is also a topic. It accompanies innovation processes step by step along the individual stages of innovation, research – development – certification – reimbursement – market. The programme will be rounded off by practical instructions on how to protect innovations as well as on IT security.

High-tech for three-dimensional images of tissue structures

Furthermore, optical techniques for improved diagnostics are currently in trend. In this connection, as a joint effort since April 2015, the Fraunhofer Institute for Electronic Nanosystems ENAS, which has been represented at the COMPAMED several times already, the Saxon company, EDC Electronic Design Chemnitz GmbH, and the Canadian company, Preciseley Microtechnology Corporation, have developed a micro-opto-electro-mechanical system (MOEMS) for optical coherence tomography (OCT). The envisaged solution should make high-resolution in-vivo OCT diagnostics possible. When miniaturising the design, increasing the precision of the OCT method can only be achieved at the same time by implementing integrated piezoelectric sensors and an application specific integrated regulation circuit. By means of this, it is possible to integrate high-precision coherence tomographic images into an endoscope and obtain non-invasive three-dimensional images of tissues structures. OCT is used in a variety of medical fields, such as ophthalmology for example. The condition and possible diseases of the retina can be detected by means of non-invasive OCT examinations. Using OCT, it is possible to obtain three-dimensional images of the composition of the tissue structures. In relation to rival techniques, the advantage entails a high level of penetration depth into the tissue with a high level of resolution. In contrast to sonography, OCT is not based on an acoustical method, but on optical interferometry (distance measurement) instead. The joint project has been made possible by an initiative of Alberta’s ministry for higher education (EAE) and the Federal Ministry for Economy and Technology (BMWI).

Coatings that can kill off bacteria

A “never-ending hot topic” at the COMPAMED entails coatings, especially those with antimicrobial action. Biofilms on catheters can lead to infection in patients. Therefore, in the USA, already two thirds of all catheters on the market have antimicrobial coatings and/or antithrombogenic coatings. Even if different legislation prevails in Europe, in the meanwhile, such catheters are also used here. Using the so-called “non-leaching method” the supplier, Cikautxo, located in northern Spain, has developed catheters with a surface treated with a substance that kills off bacteria at the moment the bacteria come into proximity of it. Using this method, no substances are released into the vascular system so that no side effects result. Cikautxo works with an antimicrobial coating made of polymers and their antithrombogenic effect, which is based on heparin.

Once again, the upcoming COMPAMED will give an overview of the entire range of medical technology suppliers. The range of offers for visitors spans from tiny sensors all the way to packaging machines that fill entire rooms, from innovative materials to refined microsystems, from mobile diagnostic devices all the way to electronic manufacturing services (EMS). In the future, 3D printing should also become a focus at the COMPAMED. According to a survey carried out by DeviceMed, 31 percent of the companies questioned already rely on the innovative method; 35 percent are planning to use it in the foreseeable future. Only one third of the approximately 80 companies recorded up until this point do not currently see any possibilities for its application. Also from this point of view, a visit to halls 8a and 8b are certainly worthwhile this year, being the first time for exciting discussions and business to take place for a day longer.

Dates of the COMPAMED + MEDICA 2015: 16 – 19 November

Author: Klaus Jopp, freelance technical writer for science and technology (Hamburg)

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