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Microtechnology is becoming established in Medicine - Innovative Minitature Parts made of plastic are in fashion

Following its successful launch in 2003: The IVAM Forum will complement ComPaMED and MEDICA again this year 

After the great success enjoyed following its launch in 2003, the "Microsystems for Medical Technology" forum will be presented in Düsseldorf again this year, to complement ComPaMED, the leading international trade fair for components, parts and raw materials for medical manufacturing, being held from 24 to 26 November 2004 as part of MEDICA, the world’s largest medical trade show. Messe Düsseldorf and the Interest Group for the Application of Microstructure Technologies (Interessenge-meinschaft zur Verbreitung von Anwendungen der Mikrostruktur-techniken NRW e. V., IVAM) have agreed a continuation of their co-operation for the IVAM Forum. Due to the close topical affinity they plan to stage the forum as a special show and series of lectures as part of ComPaMED in the new exhibition hall. A lecture series is also planned as part of the ComPaMED programme on the topic spectrum of "Rapid Prototyping - Strategies for Product Development in Medical Technology". The content for this is being developed by the NC Association (NC-Gesellschaft e. V.), Ulm (NC = Numeric Control), which, with its 160 members, sees itself as a platform for manufacturers and users of new technology. 

"The IVAM Forum was completely sold out in 2003. MEDICA and ComPaMED have proven themselves to be the ideal communication platform for vendors and users of microtechnology in medicine," enthuses Dr. Uwe Kleinkes, CEO of IVAM, about the positive feedback. The good atmosphere does not come about by chance. The forum and the trade fairs MEDICA and ComPaMED are impressive in terms of the range on offer and give a taste of the trends that lie ahead, as we can already see developing in 2004. The general spectrum of microtechnological innovation is expanding ever further and encompasses production processes as well as components and complete systems.

In a series of specialist lectures that went hand-in-hand with this, the IVAM Forum 2003 illuminated various aspects, from microfluids to dosing devices, from sensors to laser micro-machining. Around 60 experts from industry took part in this event, which was being held for the first time. It became evident that the suppliers for medical manufacturing are particularly active in experimenting with the use of plastics for their parts, and that they find some innovative solutions. 

A particularly important area for medical technology, analytics and diagnostics is the precise handling of ever decreasing quantities of fluid, for instance. The actual applications vary immensely however. On the one hand they include the so-called "lab on a chip", and on the other, systems for continual or discrete dosage of a wide variety of media and reagents in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. There are already a large number of microfludic components, for example valves, pumps, mixers, reaction chambers and sensors. Micro Mechatronic Technologies AG (MMT, Siegen) has developed dosage injection pumps "to the limits of the imaginable", as Willi Hempelmann, CEO of MMT, expressed it in his lecture. And quantities between a miniscule 80 nanolitres (one nanoliter is one billionth of a litre) and 10 litres per hour, as these systems are capable of, really are hard to believe. These pumps can also be used to deliver or mix up to three different liquids at a fixed ratio. "Another great advantage is that it is possible to dismantle the pump component for cleaning or sterilisation in no time", says Hempelmann.

Minute Pumps and Valves made of Plastic

Another participant in the IVAM Forum 2003, Bartels Mikrotechnik GmbH from Dortmund, also specialises in microfluidics. It primarily develops and manufactures micro pumps and valves as drive or control elements. Conventional systems of this kind were basically all made of silicon, or glass and silicon. Bartels, on the other hand, places its main emphasis on the use of plastics (such as polycarbonate), which are got "into shape" using processes such as micro-injection moulding or micro-embossing. So the whole pump, apart from the actuator, which consists of a piezo-ceramic and a layer of glass, is made up of polycarbonate. "This reduces the use of different materials to a minimum", emphasises Ron Meyknecht, a fluidics expert at Bartels.

The HSG-IMIT (Institut für Mikro- und Informationstechnik der Hahn-Schickard-Gesellschaft) in Villingen-Schwenningen is working on various ways of developing drug delivery systems using microtechnology. This requires components such as microchannels, valves, pumps, sensors and mass flow controllers. The aim is to manufacture small vessels that can be implanted under the skin. A potential area of implementation would be pain relief therapy, where continual or regular delivery of minute amounts (one microlitre is one millionth of a litre) of a drug is called for. Components of this kind, so-called "smart pills", are available at the smallest of dimensions from just 6 by 14 by 2 millimetres and can be used for periods of up to 10 years. 

Bright Market Prospects - Opportunities for Plastics

That ComPaMED and MEDICA have chosen an absolutely hot topic with microtechnology is confirmed not only by the insight gained as a result of the IVAM Forum 2003, but is also evident from market data. Market researchers forecast a bright future for microsystems technology (MST). The Nexus Market Analysis, highly respected in the trade, predicts a growth rate of around 20 percent p.a. until 2005. The total volume (including MST components and subsystems) is expected to rise from 50 billion dollars in 2003 to 68 billion dollars in 2005, with the general area of health playing a significant role.

The constant advances in miniaturisation, also in medical technology, lead to ever increasing demands on the suppliers, presenting themselves at ComPaMED, for methods of microprocessing different materials. This increasingly includes plastics, because the tools for handling and working with them for medical purposes are improving all the time. Excimer lasers are universally applicable, for instance, which are available for a variety of wavelengths. "A practical example of the trend with this type of laser is the fabrication of polymer stents and mini catheters", says Sven Albert of 3D Micromac AG from Chemnitz. The laser chosen works with short pulses, that cause minimal thermal stress in the material being worked with, meaning that even highly sensitive materials can be used. Stent fabrication is done on a rotating axis, onto which the polymer is wound. 3D Micromac also manufactures microtitre plates made of polycarbonate film on a glass substrate. 

In 2003 the combined event MEDICA and ComPaMED attracted a total of 134,701 specialist visitors, of which approximately 8,100 were particularly interested in the range of services on offer from the 182 ComPaMED exhibitors (MEDICA 2003 hat 3,951 exhibitors).
ComPaMED 2004 takes place from 24 - 26 November, MEDICA 2004 from 24 - 27 November.
Detailed information on both of these trade fairs is available on the Internet at: and

Messe Düsseldorf GmbH

ComPaMED 2004 - Press Office

Martin-Ulf Koch/ Larissa Browa (assistant)

Tel. +49 (211) 4560 444/ 549 

Fax: +49 (211) 4560 8548







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