Originally Published MPMN November 2001
Ticona Banks on COC's Future in Medical Applications
Have you considered specifying a cycloolefin copolymer (COC) for your medical device or packaging? Ticona is betting that you will.
The supplier of engineering plastics officially unveiled the world's first COC production plant at the sprawling Ruhrchemie site of parent company Celanese AG in Oberhausen, Germany, near Düsseldorf, at the end of September. I joined a group of visiting journalists and sundry dignitaries that had been invited to tour the facility and learn more about the material's properties.
The plant has an annual production capacity of 30,000 t, and a fair portion of the COC, marketed under the name of Topas, is targeted for device and pharmaceutical applications. In fact, Ticona expects to see demand for its resins grow faster in the medical market than in the traditionally robust automotive and mobile phone sectors, according to CEO Edward Muñoz. The reason resides in the metallocene-catalyzed COC's combination of optical clarity, biocompatibility, moisture barrier poperties, heat resistance, and processability.
A key feature of the Topas 8007 grade, I was told by Alexandra Jacobs, Topas global segment leader for the medical and diagnostics markets, is its low glass transition temperature. "It can be processed at a glass transition temperature of 80°C," notes Jacobs, "which enables rapid throughput on packaging lines while producing uniform blisters with a constant wall thickness." Blister packaging, flexible films, and rigid packaging applications account for more than 50% of Topas's current market.
Topas 8007 currently is used to produce blister packs for Bayer aspirin tablets. Bayer AG had been seeking a material that offered moisture protection and clarity for packaging products marketed in tropical regions. The company initiated suitability trials in 1996 to test the material, which was then being produced at a pilot plant. Two years later, Bayer was satisfied that Ticona's COC offered the best combination of price, performance, and processability, and it has been running Topas on a blister pack machine in Indonesia since 1999.
The material's optical clarity has resulted in a unique application for a polymer, adds Jacobs. A manufacturer of 96- and 384-well microtiter plates recently specified Topas as a replacement material for the quartz glass that was traditionally used. "Quartz glass is expensive," notes Jacobs, "and because it is used multiple times, there is always a risk of cross-contamination." Until the advent of Topas, however, the company felt it had no alternative but to continue using quartz glass because it was critical that the material provide UV transparency at low wavelengths. "Topas is the only polymer with UV transparency at the 240260-µm wavelength," says Jacobs, "thus enabling production of single-use microplates."
Other applications for the material include prefilled syringes and containers. The material's transparency and its compatibility with most sterilization methods makes it suitable for use in the production of injection molded syringes and blow-molded vials.
If you would like
to learn more about the medical applications of Topas as well as Ticona's other
materials, the company has posted a medical engineering section on its Web site,
http://www.medical.ticona-eu.com, until the beginning of December. The section
describes the use of Ticona polymers in the fabrication of inhalers and minimally
invasive surgical instruments.
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