The medical supply industry is a large, growing market with a diverse manufacturing portfolio. The industry as a whole has yearly revenue of about $78 billion, mainly distributed between 60 major companies, but the total industry numbers at about 12,000 companies big and small. The products they produce satisfy the needs of hospitals, surgeons, and doctors across the world. Everything from daily disposable instruments like syringes and catheters to sutures and dressings as well as hospital beds and dental appliances are manufactured. Even latex gloves and surgical masks are produced within the industry.
This large assortment of products and needs calls into play many different manufacturing processes; it also demonstrates the need for an entire range industrial products and industrial supplies to support production.
Metalworking is an important facet of the medical supply industry. Syringes and sutures are common metal products that are in high demand. They require a set of industrial supplies in order to draw, roll, and cut hot metal. Syringe needles are made by drawing molten stainless steel through a secure die block and then rolling the metal into a hollow tube and cutting each into a syringe. Sutures are made in a similar manner, but are typically rolled into half or quarter circlers for stitching wounds. The drawing process for both materials is extremely precise, making needle and suture heads as small as 0.02 millimeters. Such precision requires high quality industrial products for the extrusion and cutting processes.
Since many of the instruments used in the medical industry are designed to be disposed of after a single application, plastics are heavily used. They typically require industrial products that can be injection molded or cast in plastic into the appropriate shape. Using the syringe example, the barrel, body, and plunger of the hypodermic are injection molded plastic pieces. Mold and die cast plates are constructed out of stainless steel to conform to the FDA standards of cleanliness for medical usage. In this case, there are no material alternatives.
Another huge product demand for medical supply companies is the latex glove. Ubiquitous in hospitals and doctor offices, they are produced by molding as well. Latex, rubber, or nitrile is used as the raw material that is then treated to become a liquid and laid over a cast of varying standard hand sizes. The liquid is allowed to cool and then washed, after which it is dried in a vacuum, which requires vacuum generators and ejectors, in order to remove solvent fumes. It is then sterilized and ready for use.
The manufacturing of disposable medical supplies is always done through mass production. Regardless of the end product, assembly lines require industrial products for the movement of materials down the line. Motors, chain link drive systems, and conveyor belts as well as roller platforms keep production moving forward. Like in most production facilities, pallet handling, forklifts, packaging, and dock equipment all play a vital role in the distribution of final products.
Wood and Fiber Products
The medical supply industry also produces hospital beds, gauze, and dressings. These products require an entirely different line of industrial supplies. Woodworking lathes, sanders, drill presses, and finishing solutions are all needed in the manufacture of hospital beds and furniture. Wound dressing and gauze are made from fibers that have to be drawn, threaded, and woven. The material needs of the medical industry are so diverse that nearly every type of industrial product is utilized to service those needs.
Precision Tooling and Diagnostics
Many of the instruments used in the medical field must conform to extremely stringent tolerances. Quality assurance is maintained with the use of industrial products such as electronic calipers, digital micrometers, and microscopes. Additionally, workholding industrial supplies of the highest quality are used, from tungsten carbide locators to pneumatic vises, to ensure reliable production lines. Leveling devices and vibration control are achieved with the use of anti-vibration pads and vibration mounts to satisfy material tolerances.
Along the same line, diagnostic and treatment tools for patients are also manufactured as a part of this industry. Heart monitors, breathing machines, MMRs, and x-ray machines all require complex microchip and electronics fabrication.
The medical supply industry covers a wide range of products that are used to practice medicine. From surgical tools to hospital beds and more, demand has created a robust manufacturing industry that is spread between nearly every type of production process from metalworking to carpentry to fabric weaving. This diversity requires the same flexibility in available industrial products and supplies.