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Plastics & Elastomers

Advances in Medical Plastic Material & Application Solutions

Donald Rosato – Dec 5, 2018

TAGS:  Medical      Metal Replacement    

Plastic Insulin SyringeMaterial developments are ensuring improved performance for medical tubing in everything from peristaltic pumps to balloon angioplasty. Enhanced materials especially elastomers are helping to boost the performance of a wide range of medical tubing.

Thanks to improved characteristics such as abrasion resistance and lubriciousness, extruders are able to produce tubing with properties such as higher kink resistance and greater softness.

Concurrently, injection molding technology and materials suppliers are finding an increasing number of ways to make plastics even more indispensable in medical applications.

Injection molded plastics continue to find a multitude of applications in the medical sector from syringes and dispensers to packaging and medical implants. This is being made possible by new advances in injection molding technology and the plastic compounds now available to the molder.

Before learning the latest advances in this area, let’s take a look at the potential polymeric materials that are driving the latest innovations:

Growth Trends in Polymers used in Medical Applications

The global medical plastics market size was estimated at US$22 billion in 2018. Enforcement & upgrading of various infection prevention standards coupled with a growing volume of surgical, hospital, and outpatient procedures are anticipated to drive the market growth.

The industry is subject to multiple technological advancements pertaining to the production of advanced plastics for use in the healthcare industry. The companies in the market resort to new product developments as one of the major strategies to achieve market growth.

Between 2016 and 2018, new product development was observed as a major growth strategy adopted by major medical plastic manufacturers such as Celanese Corporation, Eastman Chemical Corporation, and DowDupont.

Some of the key polymers used in medical applications include:

#1. Polyethylene

Increasing application of polyethylene in the industry to produce containers, films, packaging, medical bags, catheters, implants, and lid stocks is expected to have a positive impact on the industry growth.

In addition, rising technological development pertaining to the manufacture of polyethylene grades is expected to bolster the growth.

#2. Polypropylene

demand for orthopedic soft goods is driven by the use of the product for ankle-foot orthosis (AFO), a support used to control the position and motion of the ankle and correction of minor foot deformities.

The demand for polypropylene plastics is expected to grow due to the superior strength and impact resistance characteristics, which are a prerequisite for orthopedic soft goods.

#3. ABS

The demand for highly strong materials such as ABS for finger & toe splints, heel & finger protection, and leg splints is anticipated to propel growth over the forecast period.

In addition, the use of ABS for the products is likely to be driven by easier product availability coupled with superior impact resistance.

#4. PETG

PETG is a specialized plastic that provides properties such as superior moisture and oxygen barrier coupled with a high degree of transparency thereby driving the product demand for packaging medical device components.

This trend is expected to drive the growth of plastics used in medical device packaging with the segment expected to grow at a CAGR of 7% from 2017 to 2025.

#5. Polystyrene

Polystyrene is used in the production of various devices including plastic boxes, cups, medical keyboards, and vaginal dilator speculum.

The product is generally recommended for manufacturing diagnostic instruments, pipettes, flasks, and tissue culture components owing to its ease of sterilization and clarity.

Now let’s move on towards the latest medical plastic solutions of 2018 …

Latest Plastics Materials & Application Advances

Medical plastic parts have revolutionized the medical industry. They represent the largest group of materials used in medical technology.

Let's have a look at some unique plastic material solutions:


Want to know more about the latest advances in medical plastics? Join our upcoming live course on Medical Plastics Materials and Applications by leading plastics expert Dr. Donald Rosato.

#1. Topas' COC Wearable Insulin Delivery Pump

Topas 8007S-04 cyclic olefin copolymer (COC) from Polyplastics USA has been selected by Tandem Diabetes Care of San Diego, the US for use in wearable insulin delivery pumps.

The simple-to-use T: slim X2 Insulin Pump is the smallest pump available and the only one capable of remote feature updates. It is the first CGM (Continuous Glucose Monitoring) enabled pump approved to let users make treatment decisions without pricking their finger.

The pumps carry precision-molded disposable cartridges which consist of several parts molded of Topas 8007S-04. The components are produced in complex geometries and tight tolerances of less than 0.001 inch (0.025 millimeters).

Polyplastics says that the medical grade material was selected over competitive thermoplastics due to its purity, drug compatibility, biocompatibility, and dimensional stability. 

Tandem Diabetes Care Monitor
Tandem Diabetes Care Monitor (L)/Topas COC Wearable Insulin Delivery Pump (R, clear end part)

#2. Teknor Apex’s Medical-grade Thermoplastic Elastomers (TPEs)

A new series of medical-grade thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs) from Teknor Apex aimed at peristaltic pump tubing gives elasticity over a broad temperature range and withstands the stresses of pump action over time.

Unlike silicone, the TPEs are weldable and heat-sealable, says Teknor.

Its new series of Medalist compounds include clear, translucent, and opaque grades for:
  • Biotech and pharmaceutical industries
  • Medical infusion systems, and
  • Dialysis machines

The materials are made with FDA-listed ingredients, are certified to ISO 10993-5 standards for biocompatibility, and are REACH SVHC compliant. They are free of DEHP and other phthalates, as well as BPA.

Teknor Apex Medalist TPEs Extruded Peristaltic Pump Tubing Application
Teknor Apex Medalist TPEs Extruded Peristaltic Pump Tubing Application

#3. Engel's Tie-bar-less E-victory Injection Molding Machine

Engel, Waldorf Technik and Wellmei Mold of Dongguan, China have collaborated on precision medical parts and developed an integrated production cell for manufacturing pipette tips under cleanroom conditions.

The companies say that because the pipette tips are used in fully automated analytical systems in medical diagnosis, reproducible product quality is the highest priority.

However, as mass-produced parts, they are also under especially high-cost pressure in order to achieve a stable process and high economic efficiency.

The system partners integrated an Engel tie-bar-less E-victory injection molding machine with a 32-cavity hot runner precision mold from Wellmei and high-speed automation from Waldorf Technik in an extremely compact space.

Engel E-victory Molding Machine with Tie-Bar-Less Mold
Engel E-victory Molding Machine with Tie-Bar-Less Mold (L) for Molded Medical Pipette Tips (R)

#4. Sumitomo (SHI) Demag’s All-electric Molding Machines

Delving further, micro-injection molding (micro-IM) relates to the manufacture of injection molded plastic parts that have a shot weight of less than 1 gram and offers great potential in medical applications.

Sumitomo (SHI) Demag has developed an all-electric molding machine that can be easily adapted to allow micro-IM of miniature parts as light as 0.0003 grams, with walls as thin as 0.0004 inches and dimensional tolerances to ±0.0005 inch.

It is now possible to achieve very high levels of repeatability while a specific 14-millimeter screw design improves the dosing, which is critical in micro-IM.

Working with shot weights of between 0.1-1 g means that designers can now consider miniaturization of components as it is now more cost-effective.

Sumitomo Demag 250kN Micro Injection Unit
Sumitomo Demag 250kN Micro Injection Unit (L), Micro-Molded Hearing Aid Shell (R-gray)

#5. Arkema’s PA12-based Pebax TPEs

Arkema is developing an ‘extreme’ range of its PA12-based Pebax® TPEs for extended use in medical tubing.

One new grade, MV1074 SA01 Med, overcomes a typical limitation of Pebax materials namely, its friction characteristics.

Pebax is not as lubricity oriented as PE or PTFE – and soft PEBA has quite a high friction coefficient.

This last property has been achieved through engineering a lower contact angle for hydrophilic PEBA. This higher wettability brings greater lubricity.

Arkema Pebax Extruded Low Surface Coefficient Catheter Tubing

Other Noteworthy Advances

Blood Therapy Management Devices

Eastman Chemical Tritan’s copolyester for blood therapy surgical and blood management device is an established market leader.

The material is BPA free, has good clarity, chemical resistance and color stability. It also eliminates annealing and retains glass-like transparency.

PBT Designed for Medical Device Dimensional Accuracy

BASF’s Ultradur B4520 PRO is a PBT for injection-molded applications in medical technology.

It has high dimensional stability & optimized shrinkage behavior. And meet the strict reproducible dimensional accuracy requirements for medical device components.

PBT Designed for Medical Device Dimensional AccuracyBut, there are other important properties too, like:

  • Sterilized with ionizing gamma radiation or ethylene oxide
  • Print-friendly
  • Broad chemical resistance to polar and non-polar solvents
  • Low water /moisture absorption
  • Ideal sliding, due to high friction and wear resistance
  • Excellent heat aging behavior
  • Good moldability with fast cycles

Medical Masterbatch Colorants

Foster Corporation is an advanced medical plastic material formulator and device manufacturer. The brand has commercialized twelve MediBatch™ color concentrates.

The concentrates are based on FDA 21CFR 7 and 74 subpart D compliant pigment additives to support medical device application development.

Pigments include green, red, yellow, blue, violet, black and white variants. They blend well with a broad range of medical plastics like TPU and Nylon.

Antistatic PP, Acrylic, & ABS Compounds in DPI and pMDI Devices

Inhaler Chamber Featuring Antistatic TechnologyThe RTP Company has developed an antistatic technology. It imparts antistatic electrical conductivity without compromising mechanical properties of the host resin. These compounds (called as ‘PermaStat’), dissipate static charges independent of ambient humidity. 

  • Powdered and aerosol drug formulations
  • Applications requiring biocompatibility, drug interaction, and extraction testing

Molded PEEK Plastic Implantable Pump

It is a battery powered pump implant based on medical grade PEEK and helps patients suffering from excessive fluid in their abdomen.

PEEK is particularly characterized by its biocompatibility, biostability and lighter implantation. These characteristics help in preventing reactions with the body. The ALFAPump System has received regulatory approval. It is in use at leading hospital centers across Europe and globally!

UL-Approved Autoclavable Battery for Powered Surgical Tools

A leading medical device supplier has developed The Hall lithium battery system. It is a UL-approved autoclavable battery and features a battery housing made of PAEK.

The 30% glass-filled grade of AvaSpire PAEK is capable of withstanding autoclave temperatures of 275ºF (134ºC)

High-performance PAEK provides:

  • High strength
  • Ductility
  • Impact resistance
  • UL 94 VO flammability rating at 0.8mm

Smart Polymer Artificial Eyes - Self-Powered Artificial Retina

Natcore has developed a pencil eraser size, self-powered artificial retina. It requires no batteries and no camera, transmitter or other external devices! The material is an organic photovoltaic semiconductor (rr-P3HT). It is soft, light, flexible and biocompatible, as well as sensitive to visible light.

Plastics Professionals – Stay Alert!

Assess opportunities for your plastics in healthcare applications by reviewing material requirements, major trends and unmet needs your expertise could fulfill. Join the course: Medical Plastics: Innovations & Opportunities today!


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