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Innovative Medical Plastic Materials and Applications

SpecialChem / Donald Rosato – Oct 24, 2011

Plastics now represent the largest group of materials used in medical technology. In the United States, demand for medical plastics will reach 5.3 B pounds in 2011, valued at US$7.0 B or 40% globally. Products designed for medical applications have to meet many very special criteria. Typically excellent mechanical properties are required, even in components with small dimensions and wall thicknesses. Implants must have bio-compatibility to avoid rejection by the human body. Additionally medical instruments can’t trigger any negative reaction on contact with skin, blood and tissue. A major problem in orthopedic surgery is the mismatch of stiffness between bone and the metallic or ceramic implant. The moduli of metals and ceramics are inherently high whereas implantable grade PEEK can be adapted to reduce stress concentrations that can otherwise be transferred to the bone and result in bone remodeling.

Bego Implant Systems, a leading provider of implants to the prosthodontics industry is using Invibio‘s PEEK-Optima polymer to produce its sub tech provisional abutments and individual healing posts for its dental implant products. Ticona’s LCP MT grades can replace metal in medical/dental equipment, provide for finely structured parts in drug delivery systems, and meet the needs of devices for minimally invasive surgery. Biodegradable thermoplastic sutures that use smart shape memory properties to self-tighten surgical knots are aimed at self-tightening sutures for minimally invasive procedures such as endoscopic surgery, where small incisions do not easily permit suturing. Purdue’s nanotube R&D is leading to bioactive coatings to increase implanted device compatibility with body tissue and make the device last longer.

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