Exploring the market potential for automated manufacturing processes in implant production

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Lehrstuhl für Innovation, Strategie und Organisation


According to the Robert Koch Institute, a total of 480,300 people were affected by cancer in Germany in 2010. Lung cancer ranks third directly behind breast/prostate cancer and colon cancer. This makes lung cancer one of the types of cancer with the third highest probability of developing. For lung cancer patients, the placement of a so-called tracheal stent is usually necessary to maintain the patient's quality of life. Stents are supporting structures that keep narrowed body lumens open. Due to its frequent use in the lungs, but also in blood vessels or in the urinary tract, the stent is the medical implant with the highest sales worldwide. This market will be worth around EUR 7.4 billion in 2014 and is estimated at EUR 8.5 billion by 2020. Tracheal stents are produced by injection molding, laser cutting or textile manufacturing processes. The advantages of textile-based solutions are the versatile design possibilities in the development of patient-individualized stent geometries and the low material loss (approx. 1-2 %) during stent manufacture. The dominant textile manufacturing process is braiding. Due to the open ends caused by the manufacturing process, automatically braided stents have various deficits. A major risk is the low radial force, which leads to migration of the stent. In contrast, manually braided stents have closed ends and a high radial support force, but are cost-intensive and difficult to standardize in production.
The current technical research goal is the automation of the manual manufacturing process for single-thread stents. An innovative as well as a conservative approach is available. After setting up the respective braiding processes, the stents are manufactured and the processes are validated on the basis of the products.
Your task is to carry out a market potential analysis, with the aim of mapping the cost structure in current manufacturing processes of wire-based stent implants, showing potentials in manufacturing and deriving requirements for the novel automated process. Relevant process steps are work preparation, braiding process, (thermal) post-treatment and quality assurance (medical device risk class III). Due to the high proportion of manual work steps, it is to be investigated to what extent production at low-wage locations enables profitable manufacturing while maintaining quality standards. Subsequently, you will conduct an analysis of the cost saving potentials of the two new automated manufacturing processes and determine which process (conservative vs. innovative) should be selected from an economic point of view.

Methods / Procedure:
• Interviews with experts: Elaboration of the current industrial standard through company visits / skype interviews of relevant companies (SME to global player)
• Market analysis to map the current implant market (products, locations, global players and relevance to SMEs)
• Iterative exchange with technical machine and process development (VDI2221) by the Institute of Textile Technology at RWTH Aachen University (ITA)

Keywords: Medical textiles, stent implants, market potential analysis