Fiber-reinforced plastics have copious applications in the automotive and aerospace industries. They also have enormous potential in medical applications, according to the Fraunhofer-Institute for Production Technology IPT (Aachen, Germany). The institute has developed a micro pullwinding process that enables the mass production of minimally invasive devices, and researchers currently are working on techniques to process thermoplastic fiber composites for the manufacture of customizable devices.
Pullwinding is a combination of the pultrusion and filament winding processes. By miniaturizing this technique, Fraunhofer is able to produce multilayer micro-profiles in diameters smaller than 1 mm for guidewire, cannula, and catheter applications. The torsional properties of the part can be adjusted to match application requirements through precise positioning of the fibers without interruption of the production process. An additional advantage of instruments produced with these materials is the absence of metal-related artifacts, making them compatible with magnetic resonance imaging.