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Choosing the Right Plastic for Your Next Medical Device

May 28, 2015

AdvanTech manufactures a wide range of medical devices but no two are quite alike.   Probably the only common denominator is their need to pass through a gauntlet of FDA approvals and clinical trials, any one of which can either delay or even kill a new product.

This cumbersome approval process necessitates a sequence of  prototyping, the length of which can vary, but which presents very real challenges to productivity. In other words,  how can design iterations be quickly turned out so production goals can still be met?  Enter rapid plastic injection molding.  With its manufacturing speed and wide-range of production materials,  rapid plastic injection molding is ideal for medical part production.

There are certain plastics that are particularly well-suited to medical products. For example,  liquid silicone rubber offers a plethora of benefits like bio-compatibility (no immune rejection issues) and thermal resistance, which are optimal for medical and healthcare applications.

A high-temperature plastic like PEEK (polyetheretherketone) is a good choice for injection-molded parts if strength and durability is needed.  PEI is another high-temperature option.  But there is currently a supply shortage and, consequently,  sketchy availability for medical devices.

Options include PPSUs (polyphenylsulfones) and PSUs (polysulfones), both of which are considered medical-quality plastics. High-temperature thermoplastics boast heat and chemical resistance during sterilization, long-term biocompatibility, and dimensional stability.  One problem, however, is cost.  As a result, high-temp plastics are a solid option for devices and components that need only limited production volumes yet require high performance.

Transparent plastics have added value during early prototyping for devices that interact with fluids and have internal mechanics. In development, a design engineer may use translucent, medical-grade macro polycarbonate to observe the fluid path of an instrument, so he or she can make adjustments to part design before shifting to a non-transparent plastic. A simple disposable device, for example, may have just one mechanism that needs to be vetted. Translucent plastic can help them do that. In other instances, there’s a perceived value in end-use transparent devices where the user can actually see the internal functionality


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