The medical devices industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by increased need for homecare, preventative treatments, early diagnosis, reducing patient recovery times and improving outcomes, as well as a growing importance in technologies such as machine learning, augmented reality, 5G and digitalisation. In the last three years alone, there have been over 450,000 patents filed and granted in the medical devices industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Environment Sustainability in Medical Devices: 3D Printed Prosthesis.

However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilising and reaching maturity.

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.

150+ innovations will shape the medical devices industry 

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the medical devices industry using innovation intensity models built on over 550,000 patents, there are 150+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry. 

Within the emerging innovation stage, 3D printed prosthesis and robotic 3D bio-printing are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Sharps disposal containers, therapy compliance monitoring systems, and driver health monitoring are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are bio-compatible surgical adjuncts and bio-active prosthesis sealing, which are now well established in the industry.  

Innovation S-curve for environmental sustainability in the medical devices industry 

3D printed prosthesis is a key innovation area in environmental sustainability

3D printed prostheses are devices that support people with upper limb disabilities. They are mainly made of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic or bridge nylon. 3D printed prostheses are replacing traditional prostheses as they are affordable, light, user-friendly and customisable while also being kinder to the environment as compared to traditional prostheses.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies.  According to GlobalData, there are 10+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established medical devices companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of 3D printed prosthesis.

Key players in 3D printed prosthesis – a disruptive innovation in the medical devices industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of different applications identified for each relevant patent and broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of different countries each relevant patent is registered in and reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.

Patent volumes related to 3D printed prosthesis

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Carbon 51 Unlock company profile
Sichuan Revotek 23 Unlock company profile
Johnson & Johnson 17 Unlock company profile
Medtronic 14 Unlock company profile
Alcon 11 Unlock company profile
Orthopaedic Innovation Centre 10 Unlock company profile
Stryker 9 Unlock company profile
T&R Biofab 8 Unlock company profile
BellaSeno 8 Unlock company profile
Siemens 8 Unlock company profile
Stratasys 8 Unlock company profile
Efemoral Medical 8 Unlock company profile
3D Systems 8 Unlock company profile
Becton Dickinson and Co 6 Unlock company profile
Novartis 5 Unlock company profile
EssilorLuxottica 5 Unlock company profile
Nikon 5 Unlock company profile
Richard Wolf 5 Unlock company profile
Materialise 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Carbon is one of the leading patent filers in the field of 3D printed prosthesis. Some other key patent filers in the field include Sichuan Revotek and Johnson & Johnson.

In terms of application diversity, Sichuan Revotek leads the pack, followed by Orthopaedic Innovation Centre and Carbon. By means of geographic reach, BellaSeno holds the top position, followed by Stratasys and Sichuan Revotek in second and third spots, respectively.

3D printed prostheses can be used effortlessly by people of all ages in everyday life, thus improving patient care. Environmentally sustainable prostheses using natural fibres derived from agricultural waste are being developed to reduce the negative environmental impact of plastics, while maintaining cost-effectiveness. Because of the high value and viability of 3D printing, it is expected that many new companies and uses will become evident in the coming years.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the medical devices industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Medical Devices.

GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.