Among a host of smart technologies on display at MD&M West 2023, one medical device stands out as emblematic of the innovative medical science one expects to see at the largest medical design and manufacturing event.
A new adhesive unveiled at the show, 3M Medical Tape 4578, can stick to the skin for up to 28 days. It is intended for use with an array of sensors, long-term medical wearables and health monitors such as glucose and heart monitors.
Granted, adhesive tape might seem like a modest pick for a standout product among cutting-edge technologies. But behind this innovation is more than 55 years of skin adhesion science and it is the creation of a team of scientists led by Audrey Sherman, a division scientist at 3M Company, in the Medical Solutions Division.
To the uninitiated, Sherman is an innovation powerhouse when it comes to adhesives. She also happens to hold the record for the most patents by a female scientist at 3M (168).
“I’m really excited about this product because it hits home with me,” said Sherman. “My husband uses blood glucose monitors and I see him struggle with devices that don’t last very long, that fall off. And I really wanted to change that for the diabetic patients of the world.”
Sherman said she was asked to develop a solution within a short period of time. With teams set up in Japan and the U.S., the solution was designed in record time (12 months) and underwent rigorous testing.
Prior to 2022, the standard wear time for extended medical adhesives was up to 14 days.
The medical tape is made of non-woven fabric, consisting of a white spunlace polyester nonwoven backing and coated with a pressure sensitive acrylic adhesive. The primary application of the tape is adhesion to the skin, particularly for healthcare medical devices.
“3M does not produce the sensors, but we make the critical part which is what holds the sensor on to the body,” said Sherman. “Even if the sensor works, if it falls off, it’s a failure. Even if the sensor works [if] it moves in position, and you lose contact with the center that's inside the body, it’s a failure. So, we had to come up with an adhesive that would go on in an instant, and stay put.”
The team developed new test methods and tested rigorously to mitigate different skin and surface energies. The result was a quick stick adhesive that was long lasting and added the feature of liner free stability. The medical tape can be stored for up to one year, giving device makers more flexibility in the design process.
“We tested triathletes, weightlifters, swimmers,” said Sherman. “At the end of 28 days, the sensors were in place, and I was so happy for all of the team because we’ve worked fast. We work hard and we work for the goal of our patients.”
Attendees to the 3M booth were able to sample the medical tape, along with other 3M product demonstrations.
MD&M West 2023 ran from Feb. 7-9, 2023 at the Anaheim Convention Center, Anaheim, Calif.