Wearables are revolutionizing the medical field. Today’s medical devices are lighter, more portable, and smarter than ever before. Of course, achieving this level of innovation often requires an equally innovative manufacturing approach.
The good news for designers and OEMs is there’s a wide range of manufacturing options available to transform a wearable design into a finished product. In this guide, we highlight critical considerations, including material selection, printing, and custom converting processes.
Choosing the Right Materials
One of the most significant decisions when designing a wearable is material selection. There is a vast selection of materials offered by trusted manufacturers, including polyethylene (LDPE, HDPE), silicone, PVC, polyester (PET), polyurethane (PUR), spunlace, and other non-woven fabrics, just to name a few.
Each type of material offers its own unique properties and advantages. When it comes to material selection, it’s also crucial to take a holistic view and consider how individual materials will work together. For example, you need to understand how a fabric will bond and interact with certain adhesives. This is where you can lean on the relationship with your manufacturer partner, who should have specialized knowledge and testing capabilities during material selection.
Accounting for Wear Time
Often, the first question we’ll ask when consulting on a wearable is, “What is the wear time?” How long the device is intended to be worn by the user can drastically impact material selection, especially stick-to-skin adhesive. Skin can be a tricky substrate, but effective, safe adhesives are available for both short and long-term use.
The liner is material that covers the adhesive of double-sided tape. This prevents the tape from sticking to anything until the liner is removed from the wearable during application. The liner also makes the product easier to handle and store. Depending on your application, you can choose a paper liner with various coatings (glassine, PE, clay, etc.) or a film liner with special properties such as easy release, hypoallergenic, fluid resistance, and more. The liner can also be printed with graphics or instructions and specially die-cut so it can be easily removed.
Makeup of a Wearable
Wearable medical devices can be used for a host of patient monitoring and healthcare applications. While every wearable is unique, most devices can be broken down into a few essential layers.
- Printed medical tape (can include graphics)
- Stick-to-skin medical adhesive
- Release liner
- Connection to medical device
This is just a simple example. Additional components and features can be incorporated into your wearable design.
Printing Options for Wearables
Printing is an important step when producing a wearable. Not only can printing be used in the traditional sense for branding graphics, user instructions, and packaging, but it can also be used to apply functional ink to the device. Printed electronics are a great way to reduce weight and improve flexibility of the product.
Multiple printing processes can be used on wearable material, including digital, flexographic, and screen printing. Depending on your needs, you could incorporate single or four-color process printed graphics. With digital printing, you can also take advantage of advanced techniques such as variable data printing.
Converting and Assembly
To make the device as small and light as possible, it’s important to keep materials and components to a minimum while still achieving the desired performance and durability. Another important consideration is making the wearable simple and accessible. That includes designing and manufacturing the product to be easy to apply and remove, if necessary.
Once the raw materials are selected, they are custom converted to your specifications and assembled to create the final product. Some of the most common converting processes used to manufacture wearables include die-cutting (for custom shapes), laminating, and slitting.
Manufacturing Partner for Wearables
At Tapecon, we have extensive experience in design support and manufacturing for wearables in our ISO 13485 certified and FDA Registered facility. With our materials expertise, we can provide value early in the development process by helping you select materials to optimize your design and maximize manufacturability. We also offer a complete range of printing and converting capabilities to scale production of your wearable device. If you have questions about how to bring your wearable idea to life, we’d be happy to discuss the best manufacturing options.
Let’s make something great
With over 100 years of manufacturing experience, Tapecon works with product teams to solve challenges, create products, and enhance lives. Learn more about our wearable skin tapes and patches applications.