Using color in medical device design is both practical and a business strategy. Switches and keyboard buttons, for example, might be grouped and color-coded for user-friendliness and improved functionality.1 Medical device color is also used aesthetically to complement surroundings, and strategically to carry through OEM branding on medical devices.
Since these applications are routine, thinking through the use of color during medical device design is sometimes a lower priority for design and engineering teams. However, there’s growing evidence to suggest that color may play a larger role in the overall patient and staff experience — and OEMs should be paying attention.
A Different Shade of Medical Device Design
The emerging color, materials, and finishing (CMF) category of industrial design has brought new focus to how colors influence human behavior. Research spearheaded by industrial designer Christine Park is bringing color psychology and medical device design together.
Medical settings evoke any number of emotions in patients. While no one color is technically “off limits,” being selective in color choice is proving vital for managing the patient experience:
- Cool colors, like green and blue, are typically psychologically linked to relaxation and tranquility. Not surprisingly, medical devices skew toward these soothing colors — usually combined with the white to reinforce cleanliness — as do the surroundings in which they are used (e.g., in examination rooms and surgical suites).
- Warm colors, like yellow and orange, are generally thought of as optimistic. Homecare products often incorporate these colors to elicit positive patient responses, be they to medications, in-home procedures, or certain physical therapies and rehabilitation devices.
It’s important to note that the color palettes chosen for medical devices also influence medical staff. Dark blue, for example, inspires confidence and is often the choice for surgical tools.2 Color-coded cables or strategically colored buttons meant to provide visual cues for proper use of medical devices also builds self-assurance in medical team members.1
Plastics Selection: More Than Meets the Eye
For OEMs, color psychology is a key aspect of successful medical device design, and using thermoplastics is a proven way to accomplish the goal. But, there are practicalities involved in plastics selection for medical device colorization that only an experienced custom injection molder can address2, including:
- Appropriate type of plastic, such as amorphous or semicrystalline
- Required additives
- Alignment of plastics with sterilization methods, chemical exposure, etc.
- Biocompatibility certification specific to medical devices and the medical market (e.g., ISO 13485)
- The need for overmolding when one product requires multiple colors
Overlooking any of these factors could mean costly rework or, in some cases, medical device failure. OEMs that partner with custom injection molders holding MedAccred accreditation, such as Kaysun, are assured of meeting the materials standards for the highly regulated medical market, paired with exacting color specifications.
The medical market continues to innovate, and with it come opportunities for OEMs and custom injection molders to work together to find solutions that consistently exceed expectations. Find out more about the benefits in The Complete Guide to Medical Device Resin Selection.