Last year, foam (yes, foam) made headlines for an incredible application where it is being used to save lives on the battlefield. The new technology was researched and developed to help buy soldiers the time needed to get medical care by injecting foam into a wound to lessen the impact of potentially deadly internal injuries.
While not all foams are dubbed “magic” like this truly remarkable medical technology, the performance of this rapidly expanding medical foam helps shine light on foam in general as one of the frequently unsung heroes of the medical manufacturing industry.
Recently, medical foam has been widely introduced to a number of hospital environments in a growing list of applications. This is partly because of foam’s many unique properties, which make it an ideal material for many healthcare environments when compared to many of the materials that came before it.
Because of its properties, foam can be found virtually everywhere in the hospital. From positioning devices and cushions to the vital protective packaging for delicate medical and surgical instruments – the versatility of foam continues to encourage its use in more and more applications.
Part of the reason for foam’s widespread use in the medical industry is that it is very simple to sterilize, but that’s not all. Because of its low density, a high level of absorption, and availability of a number of different grades of foam for uses that call for various properties – the number of applications that can be enriched by medical foam are many.
One of the most common uses for medical foam is demonstrated during long hospital stays for patients that remain in the same position for extended periods of time In these situations “bed sores” can become a problem, which can cause a number of issues for a patient in terms of both comfort and hygiene. Older materials exacerbated these problems by contributing to discomfort. To solve this problem, medical foam can often be used as comfortable cushions to reduce discomfort and help prevent sores.
However, while foam cushions are a staple of the medical manufacturing industry, medical foam is not restricted to helping patients and caregivers in terms of comfort. Due to the ability to quickly and easily sterilize foam, medical foam is frequently used as filters, swabs, dressings, and wipes. On top of this, one particular grade of foam, closed-cell foam, is extremely effective in medical applications.
Closed-cell foam is non-permeable to liquids and air, which means that it is virtually impenetrable when staying-dry and contaminant free is a priority (open-cell foam also exists if the opposite of this is desired). On top of this, closed-cell foam can be molded, die cut, and laminated. These properties make it ideal for braces, cushions, patches, seals, wedges, sterile packaging, and much more.
With its versatility, low cost, and simple sterilization, it is no surprise that foam continues to find new and innovative uses in medical applications. To continue with that innovation, medical manufacturers have constantly shaped and reshaped what can be done with the material, expanding its capabilities and proving its outstanding adaptability in new applications. This begs us to ask the question, “What can foam do for you?”
Mark Gaston frequently writes about manufacturing and the technologies we often tend to overlook. Recently, he’s written about medical manufacturing and it’s role in the healthcare industry.