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Thin Film Coatings in the Medical Market

doctor looking through a medical device during surgery

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The medical market, including both healthcare and life sciences, is one of many markets that require thin film coatings to manufacture products. In the medical field, thin film coatings can enhance the durability of devices, improve patient comfort and even provide treatment for patients who need tissues removed, such as a cancerous tumor.

Coatings for the Medical Market

Medical devices such as implants require different types of thin film coatings before they can be used in procedures. Two of the most common types of coatings used for such devices are biocompatible hard coatings and hydrophilic coatings.

Biocompatible coatings are meant to protect both the implant and the human tissue around it. These coatings are very durable and resistant to wear, so that biological materials and bodily fluids cannot break them down. Biocompatible coatings are absolutely critical to device performance and lifespan, and also help protect the human body from direct exposure to non-biocompatible parts of the implantable device.

Hydrophilic coatings are also an important feature for medical devices. Hydrophilic coatings attract water and moisture when they come into contact with it, so they take on traits such as wetness. They are especially helpful for reducing friction and enhancing lubricity, to prevent irritation and patient discomfort when using devices such as a catheter or other type of introducer.

Because patient health, longevity and lives are at stake in the medical market, precision is of the utmost importance for coatings in these applications. A coating that does not hit the right specs for thickness or uniformity could lead to discomfort for the patient, or to unreliable device performance and even failure. For any medical coating, it’s critical to have a repeatable, reliable thin film deposition system that can meet even the tightest parameters.

Areas of Growth

One area of the medical market that could lead to higher demand for thin film coatings is medical lasers. Globally, the medical laser systems market had a value of $5,116 million in 2016, and it’s expected to reach $12,586 million by 2023, with a CAGR of 13.6%.

This rise in demand is due largely to the development of non-invasive treatments, which are enabled by lasers. Medical lasers can be used to treat and remove tissues; common procedures include cosmetic surgery, refractive eye surgery, dental procedures and other surgical procedures that involve removing tissue, such as tumors or cataracts.

For all of these treatments, the medical laser is used as a focused light source. Medical lasers offer a higher level of precision than traditional surgical methods and tools, and because they’re so precise, they damage less of the surrounding tissue for faster recovery times.

Besides their ability to remove or correct tissue, lasers have other applications, including as viable options for relieving pain or symptoms of cancer. For instance, they can be used to seal nerve-endings after surgery to help with a patient’s comfort. They can also be used to decrease inflammation and swelling and increase circulation.

For more details on how coatings are used in medical devices, read our case study, “Biomaterial Product Manufacturer Enhances Patient Safety”.