Medical textile is an important product category within technical textiles. Technical textiles are non-commodity textiles which are predominantly used in non-apparel applications such automotive textiles, medical textiles, geotextiles, sport textiles, to name a few. Even in this tighter economy, technical textile is a fast growing one. According to recent report by US-based Industrial Fabric Association International (IFAI), the specialty fabric industry expected to grow about 2.5%. Jeff Rasmussen, IFAI’s market research manager opines that with the global GDP growth edging towards 4%, the specialty fabric industry is expected to maintain a growth rate of about 2.5%.
Most recently, a UK based Textile Media Services has estimated the global value for technical textiles to be about US$127.2 billion. More importantly, in 2010, China consumed technical textiles worth about US$29 billion. Besides, India is projected to have a double-digit growth of over 15% per annum in technical textiles sector.
A recent report by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India has estimated the market size to about US$20 billion. The government of India is also supporting the growth of technical textiles sector in India by creating a National Technological Mission on Technical Textiles (NTMT) with a budget outlay of US$40 billion, and medical textile is an important part of this NTMT. To promote the growth of medical textiles in India, the government has established a Center of Excellence in medical textiles at the South India Textile Association located in the textile city, Coimbatore, in Southern India.
Medical Textile – Introduction
Medical textiles present a wide variety of opportunities for manufacturers and applications for end users. As its name suggests, a medical textile—often used interchangeably with “healthcare textile”—is any textile that provides a medical benefit. These textiles run the gamut: surgical gowns, divider curtains in hospital rooms, antimicrobial upholstery fabrics, adult briefs, gauze, implantable structures, face masks and arm and knee braces. “Any place you want something that’s flexible and strong, a textile is a potential choice,” says Dr. Stephen Michielsen, an associate professor at the College of Textiles at North Carolina State University (NCSU) in Raleigh. Because the demand for cutting-edge products is skyrocketing in the medical field, textile manufacturers continually find ways to improve upon the safety profile of existing products and introduce new medical textiles to the market.
The medical textiles include a vast range of applications, viz, adhesive tapes, bandages, beddings, blankets, castings, diapers, dressings, eye pads, gauzes, protective clothing’s, sutures, surgical covers, surgical clothing’s, swabs, supports, sanitary products, hospital gowns, etc. They also find application in extra-corporeal devices like artificial kidney, liver, heart & mechanical lung, ligaments, vascular grafts, heart valves, blood vessels, artificial skins, etc.
A range of natural fibres and biodegradable polymers with non-biodegradable synthetic polymers is being utilized for developing new products in medical textiles. Since the medical textile applications are directly related to the life of human being, those are required to undergo stringent testing and hygienic criteria, which led to innovative use of variety of fibres and a lot of developments taking place in this area.
Use of nanotechnology, tissue engineering, biomaterials along with basic textile structures, viz, fibres, yarns, woven, knitted, nonwoven and braided fabrics and composite structures made it possible to widen the horizon of medical textiles. Especially, innovations in nonwovens have brought a great deal of change in the field of Medicals.