United Soft Plastics (USP), a manufacturer and custom compounder of thermoplastic elastomers (TPE), reported increased interest in the use of thermoplastic elastomers for the production of many COVID-19 related medical items. Several companies have reached out to USP requesting materials to convert their non-medical manufacturing facilities to produce items to meet the healthcare demand from the global pandemic, it was reported in a news release.
TPEs have been used for COVID-19-related applications such as personal protective equipment (PPE) like face masks and face shields as well as ventilator parts, according to Benedict Herbst, USP executive vice president and CFO. “We are pleased to be an important contributor in the development of medical products that will help our fellow citizens combat this awful virus,” he stated in the release.
USP expects demand for such items to drop gradually towards the middle or end of 2021. However, it is also believed that there is a growing use of antimicrobial, antivirus, and antibiotic compounds. And because of COVID-19, USP noted a spike in interest both in replacing current materials (i.e., silicone or standard rubber) with softer plastic in current applications and in scaling those applications for the future. “We see a larger fraction of consumers become more conscious of infectious disease and the ability that we have, both as manufacturers and consumers, to prevent the spread of disease through the choice of proper materials,” said Herbst in the release. Products will be needed in the future to withstand different sterilization methods such as autoclaving, he added.
USP has completed product development work and now offers a portfolio of TPE products. The company’s product line includes standard grades adhering to PP and special adhesion grades for non-PP overmolding applications with substrates such as ABS, PC, nylon, PBT, PS, PPO, and PMMA. Other materials have been developed to meet special regulatory requirements within the FDA, EU food contact, REACH, and NSF. Also included are new acrylic-based TPEs with a transparent profile and a smooth dry surface with improved oil and chemical resistance.
USP provided a special TPE compound for the Nvironone OvaOne interchangeable filter face mask from Mexican manufacturer Nvironone. The mask had three containment plates that progressively block the dispersion of droplets and utilizes an N95 filter that retains the spread of aerosol particles. The injection-molded material for the mask’s base structure was designed to meet FDA contact requirements and is safe for skin contact. The high-performance TPE, sold through subsidiary USPM de Mexico Plastics, exhibits high tear strength and a smooth surface finish, it was reported.