As devices and tubing continue to evolve, we have to be more innovative to keep our customers competitive in the medical device space.
Medical devices continue to become smaller and smarter, so engineers need to continually innovate and look at problems from new perspectives. Kenneth Koen finds this part of the job exciting, especially now that he has TE’s vast technology resources at his disposal. As co-founder of AdvancedCath Technologies (which was acquired by TE in 2015) and having worked in this industry for 26 years, Ken understands customers’ needs and the commitment required to be successful. He has a great appreciation for the evolution of the medical device market. Beginning his career in Massachusetts at CR Bard, he soon moved to Northern California where young medical device startup companies were on the rise. Ken explained, “It was the hot bed for VC money in medical devices and where I wanted to be.”
What do you like best about being a Portfolio Manager?
My role as Portfolio Manager has taught me the value in working across multiple business units. I have come to know many talented and enthusiastic professionals, from operators to managers, that share the same level of passion for new technology within the medical device market. My role is exciting and challenging, especially with the amount of new technology and business units within TE Connectivity to use as resources.
When did you first realize that you wanted to work in engineering, and why?
I realized I wanted to be an engineer in high school. I had older friends that worked in the plastics industry and I developed a curiosity for how plastic resin could be formed into almost anything. This curiosity is what brought me to the beginning of my career and my first job developing a laser catheter. Later in my career, a friend reached out regarding a manufacturing position in California within extrusion. I jumped at the chance as I knew this would provide me the opportunity to be involved from the material selection phase all the way through the finished device. The next chapter in my engineering career is what propelled me into taking risks and working for myself.
What would you do if you weren’t an engineer?
I have always been fascinated with military aviation and would have taken pleasure in a career as a fighter pilot. I had friends in high school and college that went on to have careers in the Navy—one became an aviation mechanic and the other a fighter pilot—and have sometimes found myself pondering if I should have pursued the same path. I would most definitely say that if I was not an engineer, I would go to ground school and pursue a pilot’s license.
Do you have a favorite TE product?
My favorite product is the sensor TE created for wearable fitness devices. As someone who is into fitness, I find the technology to be very innovative. Years ago, if someone wanted to monitor their fitness level or activity while exercising, there were limited devices and types of activity monitoring to choose from. With TE’s new sensor technology, monitoring your fitness level and activity is easier than ever, and there are vast choices of what one can monitor from activities such as steps taken per day, flights of steps in a workout period, and how much sleep one gets per night—just by using these small devices worn on the wrist. The advancement is incredible.
Who are your customers and what are their biggest challenges?
The customers I work with are top medical device companies. Some of their biggest challenges are to create devices that are smaller, durable, kink-resistant and torque-responsive. In order for them to achieve these goals and stay ahead of their competition, they turn to us and ask that we refine our processes to achieve tighter tolerances, and look at different or exotic engineered materials to improve performance of their devices. We are then challenged to think outside the box to create viable solutions. The extruded tubing market is extremely competitive, so it’s important to stay ahead of trends with equipment technologies, engineered materials and process efficiencies.
What do you see as a future trend in medical devices?
As devices get smaller and smarter, extrusions are becoming thinner-walled and more sophisticated. I believe the trend will be to move away from hydrophilic coatings and use more biocompatible materials with lubricious additives incorporated into the polymer. Improving the lubricity of the tubing is important because that tubing or catheter will be inserted into a patient’s body or blood vessel, and the surgeon needs to perform this with minimal resistance in the artery. So, as devices and tubing continue to evolve, we have to be more innovative to keep our customers competitive in the medical device space.