The Extruded Road Not Taken

Cecile Redington, a product engineer with the company, shared her thoughts. “Polymer solution casting is a very versatile technology and lends itself well to many catheter designs, since it offers the flexibility of easily varying the material stiffness along the length of the catheter, as well as creating as a single-piece and seamless design.  By using conventional extrusions to create a complex catheter design, the manufacturing process will require several different extrusions to be bonded together to achieve transitions in stiffness, while the same can be much more easily achieved by modifying the layering order and location of different types of polymers…

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The Need for Speed

Avalon Laboratories uses several polyurethane-based and silicone/polyurethane-based materials for different applications of polymer solution casting. The company continues to work with several suppliers to test and incorporate radiopaque, lubricous and more biostable materials in this unique process. Polymer solution casting can provide seamless material transitions that offer varied property profiles along the shaft of a medical device. The process starts with solvent solubility testing, followed by testing of materials for mechanical properties, processing capabilities and biocompatibility and internal prototyping.

“We are seeing increased interest in the benefits of polymer solution casting for thin-walled catheter applications using micro coils and hypotubes,” said Huffer. “Hypotubes allow the catheter stiffness profile to be dictated by the hypotube cut pattern, which can be varied along the entire length and allows for very different characteristics from the distal to proximal end. In some instances, removing the need for multiple durometer materials often simplifies to one liner material and one jacket material. Thin walls are also achievable with micro coils, but tend to require multiple durometer materials to achieve the desired stiffness profile.”

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Developing the Vasculature of Medical Devices

“Ongoing advancements in materials offers improved functionality in radiopacity, anticoagulation properties, lubricity, and biostability, explains Andres Rodriguez, materials engineer at Avalon. “Specifically, polymer solution casting can easily provide seamless material transitions that can offer varied property profiles along the shaft of a medical device.”

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Maintain Balance Between Wall Thickness Specifications

Q: What types of devices will begin to be implanted in the near future that have not traditionally been? Why? How?
Microchips for delivering drugs with time released capabilities or neuroscience, neuromodulation and/or monitoring devices material selection is key for both the implantable and delivery device. Depending upon duration and type of application biocompatible material requirements will need to be evaluated. Avalon is working with a few companies now to explore the accurate encapsulation materials and developing delivery device.

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Streamlined Process for Wire-Reinforced Catheters and Delivery Devices

There is one polymer-based processing technology that can achieve both flexibility and pushability along a catheter shaft without the multiple materials and steps – polymer solution casting. This manufacturing option utilizes liquid polymer layers to encapsulate multiple components or wire reinforcements, and vary wall thicknesses or diameters along the length of the device, while also maintaining tight tolerances.

“The polymer solution casting technology offers a level of precision and control in catheter fabrication that is truly revolutionary. Conventional reflowing of polymers falls short of being able to achieve this level of control and as such, limits catheter performance from being fully realized,” offers Stephen Griffin of Griffin BioMedical.

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Prototyping for Manufacturability – Medical Product Outsourcing

Avalon’s proof of concept and prototyping options are discussed within the article:

Avalon Laboratories LLC is a medical device manufacturer in Rancho Dominguez, Calif., that makes surgical and minimally invasive devices. The company provides both proof of concept and rapid prototyping to its clients. The company’s expertise lies in its polymer solution casting technology, which uses liquid polymers throughout the manufacturing process resulting in specialized designs unobtainable by extrusion technology. This technology offers the ability to add multiple components, varying wall thickness or diameter along the length of the device. With polymer solution casting the process provides the ability to embed components in virtually any configuration. Because this process is unique to Avalon, proof-of-concept prototyping is one of the company’s most important methods of demonstrating to clients exactly how this manufacturing process will benefit their device.”

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Avalon Polymer Solution Casting Medical Product Outsourcing Article

Polymer Solution Casting

With most co-extrusion technologies, bondable materials are located either on the OD or ID for ease of assembly of complex medical devices. It’s a multi-step process—depending on the complexity of the part or product and performance expectations, some extruders provide up to three or four materials on an extrusion run, followed by multiple pass options. Many of these materials are not ideally compatible for bonding and require a tie-layer to hold them together, or a multiple-step lamination process.

An alternative to co-extrusion is polymer solution casting, which utilizes a liquid polymer layering process to create an “all in one” continuous piece with no bonded joints and increased design flexibility. Polymer solution casting provides the ability to add multiple components and varying wall thicknesses or diameters along the length of the device. It also is possible to embed components in virtually any configuration—a production capability that expands the range of design possibilities for medical device engineers.

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Polymer Solution Casting Thin Layering Process Overcomes Multilayer Tubing Challenges

As tubing designs become more complex, medical tubing production has had to adapt to accomplish all of the requirements and typically with several different manufacturing steps and bonds necessary. To meet performance needs extrusion technology utilizes multi-layer extrusion. Multi-layer technology is used to improve functionality or to combine a weldable OD material with additional materials that add performance properties.

Avalon’s polymer solution casting technology utilizes a liquid polymer layering process to create an all in one piece continuous construction with no bonded joints and increased design flexibility. The polymer solution casting seamlessly offers the ability to add multiple components, varying wall thickness or diameter along the length of the device. It is the ultimate multi-layering approach offering pinpoint delivery performance where needed.

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Avalon’s Polymer Solution Casting Outperforms Standard Techniques

Extrusion and injection molding have been the standard for medical tubing production. However, these techniques are not the best or most cost-effective methods available to medical device manufacturers.

Avalon Laboratories utilizes unique techniques to produce superior tubing for medical devices. Polymer solution casting methods allow Avalon to meld materials with different properties – including strength, lubricity, flexibility, and color – to customize tubing for any application.

Read Bob Michaels’s recent Qmed article to learn why Avalon’s polymer solution casting outperforms traditional extrusion or injection molding techniques. Read More