WINONA, MINNESOTA, USA -- When engineers at Wright Medical Technology wanted to increase the value of their innovative PRO-DENSE* bone-grafting paste by offering surgeons and hospitals a set of disposable, pre-sterilized surgical tools for performing specific ankle procedures, they turned to custom compounder RTP Company for help with designing one of the key instruments - a retrograde drill guide for the ankle.
The problem was that that a drill guide had never been made in a disposable plastic form before. Because the device needed to be very stiff and dimensionally accurate to facilitate the delicate surgery, Wright Medical engineers had their doubts as to whether it was even possible to do so, much less at a disposable price.
"We were prepared to manufacture metal drill guides, even though we realized that providing an incomplete disposable kit that needed a separate reusable piece was a less than elegant solution," explained Ryan Belaney, Wright Medical's Product Development Engineer. "We had worked with RTP Company before and knew they were effective problem-solvers, so we figured, 'let's see what happens.' "
RTP Company recommended not one, but two candidate materials that fully met Wright Medical's stringent stiffness requirements. Both were RTP 300 Series glass fiber reinforced polycarbonate compounds providing ISO 10993 compliance to meet biocompatibility requirements. "We tried them out in a cadaver lab, and all the surgeons agreed that the guides worked very well and performed in the same manner as a metal guide," said Belaney. Wright Medical decided to go with the higher loaded version in order to give surgeons an extra measure of stiffness.
When RTP Company informed Belaney of the material's cost, the reaction was even more positive. "We found that we would be able to manufacture plastic drill guides for less than half the cost of a metal version, handily meeting our desired price point for disposables," he said. An added bonus was that precoloring the compound gave Wright Medical the ability to brand the device in its custom teal color to make it visually unmistakable in the marketplace.
Commenting on the work RTP Company engineers did to find a solution for the disposable device, Belaney said, "What RTP Company does is very unusual. I don't know of any compounder that sends its experts out into the field to help solve engineering problems. As engineers who typically work with metal, we don't really know what plastics can do. RTP Company doesn't just sell material, they educate us and open our eyes to innovative new possibilities, and that will help us to be even more successful in the future."
For more information on RTP Company custom thermoplastic compounds, call (800)
433-4787 or (507) 454-6900, or visit their website at www.rtpcompany.com.
About RTP Company
RTP Company, headquartered in Winona, Minn., is a global compounder of custom engineered thermoplastics. The company has eleven manufacturing plants on three continents, plus sales representatives throughout the Americas, Europe, and Asia. RTP Company's engineers develop customized thermoplastic compounds in over 60 different engineering resin systems for applications requiring color, conductive, elastomeric, flame retardant, high temperature, structural, and wear resistant properties.
About Wright Medical Technology, Inc.
Wright Medical Technology, based in Arlington, TN, is a global orthopaedic medical device company specializing in the design, manufacture, and marketing of reconstructive joint devices and biologics. For more information, please visit their website at www.wmt.com.
* PRO-DENSE is a registered trademark of Wright Medical Technology, Inc.