September 13, 2003
Originally Published MPMNSeptember 2003
NPE Exhibitors Eye Medical Device Applications
Mediflex compounds for tubing extrusion and other medical applications were introduced by Star Thermoplastic Elastomers at the recent NPE show.
Hammered by rising oil prices and knee-deep in a soggy economy, the plastics industry did not anticipate a blockbuster NPE show in Chicago this year. Some openly wondered how bad it was going to be. Although attendance contracted by almost 30% compared to the record set in 2000, the number of exhibitors, down only 4%, barely took a hit. More important, the exhibitors I spoke with were fairly upbeat. Of course, most of my appointments were with suppliers for whom the medical device industry is a key customer. They have good reason to be optimistic.
According to a recent report on the medical device plastics market, demand for resins will grow by more than 4% annually over the next five years. By 2008, medical technology companies will consume almost 2.9 billion lb of resin, according to Business Communications Company, Inc. With growth industries hard to come by, it should be no surprise that NPE exhibitors were eager to highlight products with medical applications. Here are a few that caught my attention.
Building a Better Antimicrobial
The Specialty Elastomers Business of Milliken Chemical (Spartanburg, SC; www.millikenchemical.com) chose NPE to launch its nonleaching antimicrobial heat-cured rubber compounds. The Elastoguard materials reportedly address some of the deficiencies of "traditional antimicrobial materials that come from an organic base," according to Scott McDowell, marketing analyst and planner for Milliken's coated products and elastomers business. One drawback of organic-based products is the tendency of chemicals to leach from the matrix material, leaving parts of the surface unprotected. In addition, "the chemicals tend to degrade at processing temperatures over 250°C," says McDowell.
The biocide used in Elastoguard compounds permeates the entire rubber part. The proprietary Alphasansilver-sodium-zirconium-phosphate ion-exchange resin provides complete protection without zones of inhibition or noninhibition. Nor will the biocide degrade over time, says the company. In fact, its performance is enhanced during use as abrasion of the rubber causes more of the agent to reach the surface. The resin is thermally stable, and can tolerate temperatures greater than 800°C, according to McDowell.
Potential uses for elastomeric products with the silver-based biocide include seals, gaskets, O-rings, casters, diaphragms, liners, and tubing. Wound-care products and catheters are also among its medical applications.
A couple of companies introduced new lines of thermoplastic materials suited for medical applications. Star Thermoplastic Elastomers (Chicago; www.starthermoplastics.com) unveiled its Mediflex compounds, which are available in grades ranging from 8 Shore A to 60 Shore D. Suited for a variety of medical products, the materials are nonallergenic and recyclable, and can be specified colored, translucent, or clear. They contain no carbamates or potentially hazardousextractables.
Thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPUs) that are based on a new high moisture vapor transmission (HMVT) technology were among the featured products from Noveon (Cleveland; www.estane. com). The Estane high-heat and ultra HMVT formulations are suited for a number of breathable medical applications such as apparel and wound-care products.
"The technology involves a different chemistry than we used in the past," says new business development manager Susan Hemphill. "It creates a monolithic barrier in film or coated form," she adds, keeping out water and other fluids while allowing moisture vapor to move about freely. Micropores or perforations are not needed. In addition, the chemistry allows manufacturers to "dial in" the material's breathability for specific product applications.
The high-heat HMVT TPU is designed for processors requiring high thermal performance. Increasing the thermal behavior of a breathableproduct broadens the processing conversion options, notes the firm. Also based on the company's Estane TPU technology, the Ultra HMVT TPU reportedly provides a 50%improvement in moisture vapor transmission over the firm's conventional HMVT materials.
A supplier of plastics-joining equipment employing various technologies, Branson Ultrasonics Corp.(Danbury,NJ; www.bransonultrasonics.com) exhibited its new infrared assembly method (IRAM) laser systems. Operating in simultaneous and scanning modes, the IRAM systems are designed for demanding customers that need a "perfect weld with no flash or particulates and fast cycle times," says marketing director Sylvio Mainolfi. The modular welders are available in 100-, 125-, and 750-W versions. Laser IRAM equipment can be integrated into automated systems, achieving a throughput of 20 to 30 parts per minute, depending on the application. Branson demonstrated the unit at NPE using the Clearweld process developed by Gentex. The process allows clear and colored plastics to be laser welded without the use of opaque materials. (To find out more about this technology, see the Hotline section in the May 2002 issue of MPMN or go to www.devicelink.com/mpmn.)
On a smaller scale, Plastec North America Inc. (Miami; www.plastec-moditec.com) displayed what it describes as the smallest slow-speed granulator on the market. Developed by Moditec in France and distributed in North America by Plastec, the 25-rpm granulator is available with 5.27 ¥ 4.5- or 5.27 ¥ 7-in. cutting chambers. Medical device molding applications and other processes that involve small sprues and runners are among the target markets for the machine, according to Plastec vice president Ernesto J. Sosa.
Copyright ©2003 Medical Product Manufacturing News
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