We had a press release today that outlined progress we made in broadening our IP specific to biomedical applications. The main focus of the press release was to update everyone on a new patent specific to improving implant (stent) performance by optimizing the implant metal microstructure using our grain boundary engineering (GBE) technology. The press release was as follows:
TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Feb. 7, 2013) - Toronto-based Integran Technologies Inc. (Integran) today announced its first issued patent pertaining to the use of its metallurgical nano-technologies for enhancing the durability, reliability and longevity of biomedical implants. US Patent 8,273,117 discloses a "Low Texture Quasi-Isotropic Stent" having superior mechanical properties for use in the treatment of coronary artery disease.
Integran's CEO Gino Palumbo stated: "We are currently developing several biomedical applications for our nano-engineered materials and we are very pleased that the US Patent & Trademark Office has recognized the applicability of our novel grain boundary engineering (GBE®) nano-technology to conventional metallic implant alloys."
So what else are we doing in medical devices?
Plating on Plastics in BioMedical Applications
The Biomedical Context:
As the biomedical industry moves further towards single-use devices and equipment for developing countries, there has been more focus on metal replacement and the use of plastics. Plating on plastics using high strength metals, like Integran's Nanovate metals, becomes an interesting proposition given the ability to provide hard wear surfaces for surgical devices, while also adding structural stiffness and strength. The additional challenge in the biomedical industry is the biocompatibility of metals traditionally used for plating on plastics like Copper and Nickel. Integran has risen to the challenge by developing Copper and Nickel-free plating technology for metalizing plastics.
Decorative Plating on Plastics:
Plating on Plastics was first established over thirty five years ago and is now a mature, widely utilized technology. One of the largest consumers of plating on plastics is the automotive industry, which was instrumental in developing the plating process for the commonly used acrylonitrile-butadiene styrene (ABS), as well as other polymers. Plating on Plastics consists of two processes: a) metallization the plastic to provide a conductive surface, and b) decorative (or structural in our case) metal plating on the conductive surface. Platable polymers (formulated for plating) are metalized by etching, catalyst seeding and subsequently forming a conductive electroless nickel or copper layer. A decorative electroplated metal usually follows, with an under-layer of copper followed by bright, semi-bright, or a layered nickel with a top-coat of decorative chrome. In the case of Integran, our thicker, stronger structural metallization takes the place of the typical thin decorative layers. Plating on plastics is also widely utilized in consumer electronics, bathroom and kitchen fixtures and other consumer goods.
The Trouble with Copper/Nickel
In corrosion environments, such as those seen in automotive applications, the copper under-layer can pose a corrosion issue if the nickel layers are breached. Considerable process development in layered (or duplex) nickel has helped these parts perform well, even in aggressive corrosion environments. While this is acceptable for the automotive industry, other areas, such as consumer electronics and medical devices, are moving towards avoiding nickel/copper containing parts altogether for several reasons: a) Prolonged contact of human skin to nickel can result in nickel sensitization and may lead to allergic reactions; b) Nickel and copper are metals with known cytotoxicity. For these reasons, these industries are looking for processes that avoid nickel/copper entirely. Directives to avoid use of nickel and copper pose a considerable challenge for metal-plated plastic articles as they are critical components in the traditional plastic metallization processes.
The solution for plastic medical/surgical devices
Integran Technologies has answered the call of the medical device industry and developed a Ni and Cu free plating on plastics solution to enable Integran's structural plastic plating technology. In addition to this new Ni-Cu free metallization technique, Integran has offer structural reinforcement of polymers for medical devices can create durable, strong, and wear resistant products that are lighter than all-lightweight-metal products like aluminum. We also have technology that allows us to process, with high adhesion strength, a very wide range of polymers that include difficult to metalize engineered polymers such as PEEK, PEI and PPS as well as fiber reinforced thermosets such as Carbon-fiber epoxy composites. The adhesion strength, nickel/copper free plating, and structural metallization can enable interesting products that demand lightweight, intricate, and wear resistant biomedical and surgical components.