Q&A with Joe Rowan - How miniaturization is transforming peelable heat shrink tubing technologies

Apr. 27th, 2021

Q&A with Joe Rowan (Junkosha’s President and CEO for USA & Europe) on how miniaturization is transforming peelable heat shrink tubing technologies

1) What are the trends and challenges affecting the medical tubing markets?

The future of the medical tubing sector is an interesting one, not least because there are a variety of pressures on organisations within this space to provide cost effective, highest quality products in shorter timescales. This is mainly driven by the global healthcare market, which continues to demand products and solutions that push the boundaries of what is possible at a price point that is highly competitive.

Take the catheter market as a prime example of these challenges. In the world of neurovascular techniques, clinicians are pushing for solutions that enable them to deliver complex procedures more efficiently, therefore not only reducing costs both in terms of time and money, but also enabling the provision of a higher quality of care to patients. Procedures which include delivering stents, coils and in some cases even signals/therapy down the catheter are all techniques that are fast becoming mainstream requirements.

The trend towards procedures using smaller and smaller catheters and guide wires is continually increasing. This drives organisations like Junkosha to not only innovate on a product level, but also find ways to provide its solutions in a timely, efficient and cost-effective manner that meets all of the customers’ unmet needs. In effect, today’s innovations are tomorrow’s essentials.

2) What are the most exciting current developments in your industry?

Developments in the peelable heat shrink tubing (PHST) market are continuing all of the time. For example, we developed the first ultra-small PHST and highest-shrink ratio PHST on the market. Our ultra-small PHST is the only suitable tubing for laminating jacket coatings to tiny guide wires, for example 0.014”, leveraging the fact that PHST has a recovered ID down to 0.009”. These miniature guide wires are perfect for applications including the navigation of vessels to reach a lesion or vessel segment within, for example, the brain or heart. The high-shrink ratio PHST (2:1) is ideal for manufacturing processes where tapered microcatheter shafts are used or where tolerance take-up is an issue.

This is independently verified by manufacturers. For example, Robert LaDuca, CEO of Duke Empirical, Inc., an innovative Medical Device Manufacturer explains: “As medical technology advances, device designers worldwide are being challenged to produce smaller and thinner micro catheters and guide wires which provide clinicians the ability to reach and treat previously inaccessible anatomical targets. The extension of minimally invasive treatment options for previously untreatable patient populations has created a need for new tools used in catheter manufacturing, such as the peelable heat shrink tubing products provided by Junkosha. In our experience, these new tools have been cost-effective in reducing scrap rates while increasing throughput by shortening assembly time.

“In addition, these new products by Junkosha enable the manufacture of products which previously would not have been possible due to the challenges of heat shrink removal from delicate soft polymers used in certain high-performance catheters,” adds LaDuca.

3) Tell me more about your 2.5:1 PHST solution.

Junkosha's 2.5:1 PHST solution has been designed to provide catheter manufacturers with the highest shrink ratio currently possible thanks to its proprietary design techniques, enabling customers (in turn) to save time and money through a reduced number of shrink processes. In addition, thanks to PHST's high temperature, it allows the use of cost-effective, lower tolerance, baseline materials in the manufacturing process, and enables the ability to reflow these easily into a single smooth construct. All this results in a reduced total cost of ownership for the catheter manufacturer, which in turn increases the margin available for potential reinvestment across the entire product development cycle.

Robert LaDuca, CEO of Duke Empirical, Inc., an innovative Medical Device Manufacturer, adds: “This new launch from Junkosha not only provides time savings, but also cost benefits to medical product manufacturers that perform reflow lamination processes which are common in many reinforced catheters. Overall, the PHST 2.5:1 solution has the highest shrink ratio currently available in FEP, meaning a reduction in reflow operations down from multiple to one is now possible.

“There are a number of applications where this new high ratio PHST technology will enable better processes and cost savings, including neurovascular catheters which have tapered diameters for the floppy distal segments, and proximal sections with larger diameters for pushable support,” adds LaDuca. “Due to these catheters mainly being braid reinforced proximally and coil reinforced distally, there is a requirement for a peelable heat shrink solution that can accommodate in a single step the compression required to provide significant bond strength of the materials. Junkosha’s 2.5:1 PHST is the ideal solution for this.”

4) What market challenges does Junkosha face?

There are numerous challenges Junkosha and its supply chain face globally, including:

• Stringent regulation across all levels of healthcare (never forgetting that it is ultimately about patient care);
• The increasing cost of healthcare, especially in the US and Europe, which places a huge strain on those looking to innovate and provide the best possible outcomes across the sector;
• The need to make procedures less invasive for patients.

Although these various challenges differ around the world, they all require one thing: innovations that not only improve the service to patients but provide clinicians and other end users with technologies that make their lives easier, reduce costs and save them time.

5) Is there a move towards miniaturization?

The move towards miniaturization, from a medical tubing perspective is picking up pace, with medical device manufacturers demanding catheter solutions that can readily penetrate harder to reach places. Added to this is the requirement for increasingly sophisticated catheters that can send diagnostic signals into the body or provide therapy, in other words ‘active’ catheters.

Overall, the trend towards miniaturization of catheters covers a wide spectrum of applications including, for example, neurovascular delivery of devices such as coils and stents for stroke or aneurysm therapies, and even signals/energy to help support treatments such as neuro modulation or neuro stimulation in the case of research for treatment of Parkinson’s disease.

6) What’s in store for the medical tubing market over the next few years?

Robert LaDuca, CEO of Duke Empirical, Inc., explains: “In the future, we anticipate the utilization of miniaturized catheter solutions will be widely adopted by most medical manufacturers working on the leading edge of microcatheter technology.”

In response to this increasingly demanding market, Junkosha has tapped into another core competence, that of fine wire and cable. Since its inception over 65 years ago, Junkosha has pioneered the use of demanding wire and cable interconnects. These active catheters, which are used in multi-lumen tubing, can be seen in diagnostic applications like Intravascular Ultrasound (IVUS), Intra Cardiac Echo (ICE) as well as monitoring components such as Thermocouples in procedures like Arial Fibrillation (AF). Finally, they even deliver therapy in Neurostimulation procedures. These tiny cables, which can be produced down to sizes as small as AWG 54, are a critical and integral part of the catheter.

The fact that Junkosha can manufacture these sophisticated interconnects AND the associated catheter Fluoropolymer products, puts them in a unique position to partner and consult with the OEM or contract catheter manufacturer.

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