During her eight years working at Creganna Tactx Medical (Galway, Ireland), a contract manufacturer specializing in minimally invasive medical devices, Sinéad Kenny was struck by the complexity and cost of manufacturing catheters. "I saw, day in and day out, on the manufacturing floor how expensive and difficult it is to make these products," Kenny told PlasticsToday. In particular, to impart lubricity to the device, polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) liners are bonded to the inside of the catheter and a hydrophilic coating is applied to the outside. "There had to be a better way," says Kenny. She thinks she has found it. In April 2012, Kenny took redundancy from Creganna and formed a startup company, DiaNia, also based in Galway, to develop and commercialize an extrusion technology that would reduce the conventional 15 step process to a mere seven steps.
Extrulub technology eliminates eight steps in the current production process of cardiovascular introducers, for example, by building in lubricity on the inner and outer surfaces of the tubing. Instead of loading and stretching the liner, doing the reflow, removing the heat shrink and mandrel, and trimming the jacket liner, the Extrulub production process begins directly with the overmolding step. "By eliminating dip coating and other batch processes and adopting a continuous manufacturing process, you can just extrude and build the device," says Kenny. The process would foster significant savings in unit costs and headcount as well as improve yield, according to Kenny.