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Shape Memory Polymers: Smart Actuators

Shape memory polymers (SMPs) are a class of “smart” materials that can remember their shape and transition easily between shapes in response to a stimulus or “trigger”. SMPs are manufactured into an initial shape and then programmed into a different temporary shape. They are then activated to return to their original “memorized” shape upon exposure to certain triggers such as heat, fluid uptake, or mechanical force. [1]

SMPs serve as actuators that store and release mechanical energy allowing them to exert a force (up to 10 MPa) or undergo large shape changes (up to 1200%) during recovery. The recovery forces and amount of shape change can be tailored for specific applications by controlling the polymer structure and chemistry. They can be made from a variety of polymer chemistries, such as acrylics, urethanes, epoxies, and can come in various forms including foams and fibers.

MedShape’s team of engineers and scientists have a proven track record in understanding and developing SMPs. Though other researchers have developed numerous formulations of SMPs, MedShape was the first company to have FDA cleared and commercialized medical devices manufactured from shape memory polymers. Our proprietary PEEK Altera® biomedical polymer allows devices to enter the target surgical site in a compact geometry and then be mechanically triggered to deploy into the optimal geometry for maximum fixation inside bone.

PEEK Altera offers many clinical advantages over regular PEEK:

  1. Increased deformability without compromising the material strength and toughness
  2. Less invasive insertion approach
  3. Reduced force requirements to deploy

Devices manufactured from PEEK Altera are biocompatible, biostable, radiolucent and MRI safe.

[1] DL Safranski and JC Griffis. Shape-Memory Polymer Device Design. Elsevier. 2017.