Seal is a critical component in almost all the industrial applications, and when its healthcare, the significance further fortifies. Imagine a situation where doctors are in the mid of an operation and one of the devices starts leaking. An infallible seal can prevent the occurrence of such an adverse event.
Medical seals are used in various applications, including surgical tools, analytical equipment, feeding devices and implant material, and other medical devices. Seals, in all medical applications and devices have the added responsibility of providing minimal risk of cross-contamination, leakage-protection, and sterilization resistance, etc.
The recent Covid-19 outbreak has resulted in increasing investments in the R&D and medical analysis field giving rise to the demand in analytical instruments. These instruments are large in size and have a higher usage of seals than the other applications making them occupy a large chunk of >50% in the medical seals’ market.
Different applications use differently functioning seals. Static seals are used where there is no movement, rotary seals are used where there is a rotation, and linear seals are used where there is a linear motion.
Although, different types of seals perform the same basic function of preventing liquids or gasses from egressing, but in different ways. A medical device can use an O-ring, gasket, or a lip-seal depending on the application.
Gaskets are generally used in static applications, Lip seals in dynamic rotating elements, and O-ring seals are used in both static and dynamic applications. As a result, O-ring seals are high in demand and capture >50% share in the total medical seals’ market.
The graph below depicts the present and future dominance of different types of seals used in the medical industry.
Share of Different Types of Seals in Medical & Life Science Industry:
Advanced medical procedures have generated the demand of new and updated medical equipment and devices. Seals and other parts in medical devices are now exposed to a wider range of chemical and temperature environments than ever before. In order to ensure minute safety measures, OEMs ensure that their seals are manufactured from the highest-quality materials.
The seals used in medical industry are majorly made from Elastomers, thermoplastics, and metals.
Elastomeric seals, unlike others, provide the highest level of hygiene, resilience, and elastic properties, due to which they command the largest share in the industry.
Quick facts about the elastomeric seals –
According to United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, population division, the proportion of older population is the largest in Europe and North America (around 18% in 2019). This fact coupled with the regions’ economic development logically translates into a wide gap in the healthcare spending between developed and developing nations.
According to OECD, the U.S. is the highest spender in healthcare, followed by Japan. In 2019, the per-capita healthcare expenditure in the U.S. exceeded 10,000 US Dollars. The Covid-19 outbreak catapulted the expenditure to $12,530 in 2020, an increase of 9.7% over 2019 figure.
The graph below shows the per-capita healthcare spending of top 20 countries.
The supremacy of North America in healthcare spending provides a fillip to medical seals industry due to the presence of major medical equipment manufacturers. Some of the leading key players in the North American medical seals industry including Bal Seal Engineering, Green Tweed, and IDEX Corporation.
The past few years witnessed few acquisitions where some of the seals manufacturing companies have been acquired by renowned companies that have presence in different fields.
For instance, an aerospace company, Kaman Corporation, in January 2020, acquired Bal Seal Engineering, Inc., a leader in the manufacturing of highly engineered springs, seals, and contacts.
Saint-Gobain, a French manufacturing company acquired HTMS, a Belgium-based manufacturer of resilient seals in the year 2020.
Amongst these acquisitions, one of the key players in the medical seals industry, Trelleborg Sealing Solutions, a subsidiary of Sweden’s Trelleborg A.B., has been the most aggressive acquirer over the past five years.
Year 2020 has been a monumental year for the healthcare industry across the globe which has witness shifting of horizons in terms of rising healthcare expenditure and consciousness. There is a bigger push for contamination-free operational environments like never-before and its impact has percolated down the value chain as well.
Small in size, but big in impact, these seals are one of the most important components in all the medical device and must be free of contamination. To ensure that medical seals are safe for patientcare, a certified cleanroom is necessary for manufacturing, testing, and packaging products. This requirement for cleanroom coupled with complex medical device designs increases the cost of manufacturing seals, which poses as a challenge for the seal manufacturers.
However, the rising public awareness and governments across regions putting healthcare sector on priority cards will create an opportune environment for medical seals in the coming years.