Nonwoven fabrics with a special mission

Weinheim, 12 November 2014. The right time in the right place – what can be advantageous in life is essential in medicine. For example, when it comes to delivering drugs to precisely the right place in the body. With the help of the novel "scaffolene" technology, the Freudenberg Medical Nonwovens Group has enabled drugs to be positioned exactly where they are needed, before being dispensed in a controlled manner. These unique nonwovens are opening up new and innovative possibilities in operations, wound healing and regenerative medicine.

scaffolene technology was invented by Freudenberg employees. This novel technology enables Freudenberg to develop medical nonwovens to the precise requirements of customers from the medical technology and pharmaceutical industries. The nonwoven fabrics are made of bioresorbable materials that are absorbed by the body. "For the patient, this has the advantage that no second surgery is needed to remove the product", explained project leader Dr Denis Reibel. During production, drugs, enzymes or growth hormones can be incorporated directly into the fabric for later application in surgery, wound healing and regenerative medicine.

In its dry state, scaffolene is flexible and tear-resistant. It even remains stable when wet, retaining its structure and effectively resisting clumping. This means that it can be easily and safely moved into the right place in the body during operations, for example to stop bleeding. Thanks to its flexibility, the nonwoven material can also be used in micro-invasive surgery, in which small openings are used to avoid making large incisions. The fabrics can also treat surgical sites, promote the healing of open wounds or rebuild bone after a fracture.

In the course of conversations in practices and hospitals, the project team has experienced first-hand the demand for these innovative nonwovens among physicians from many different disciplines. "We have created a medical platform that opens up new therapeutic approaches for doctors", Reibel explained.

The key to scaffolene technology's many uses lies in the production process. The nonwovens are made of bioresorbable polymers of natural or synthetic origin. The composition of the polymers determines the biological and mechanical properties of the nonwovens, such as their degradation in the body or resistance to tearing. The advantage for the customer is that Freudenberg can use the patented scaffolene technology to customize the various nonwovens following a modular principle to meet specific medical requirements.

It took a long time to reach this point. Freudenberg experts began their research and development work back in 2007. The initial impetus for the technology came from a customer request. A gelatin manufacturer was looking for a nonwoven fabric made of gelatin for medical applications, which would dissolve in the body.

In response, Freudenberg developed an innovative machine that was able to produce bioresorbable nonwovens at low temperatures using a rotary spinning process. The gentle spinning rotor technology enables sensitive raw materials like gelatin to be processed under clean room conditions, which meet the strict requirements for medical products. This guarantees the customer reliability, as well as the consistent and safe quality of the medical nonwovens.