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Polycarbonate: The ‘Clear’ Choice For Medical Devices

February 26, 2021

Until the 1960’s, medical device manufacturers were often limited to two materials for their products: glass and metal.  But, as with so many other manufacturers in that decade, medical device makers began turning to plastic polymers for four chief reasons:

  • cost (compared to metal)
  • strength (comparable to metal, and sometimes greater)
  • shatter-proof properties (especially compared to glass)
  • malleability (compared to metal or glass, plastic can be easily formed into an endless variety of shapes)

Nasal Syringe
Nasal syringe, produced through plastic injection molding at AdvanTech Plastics.

One attribute that was missing, for a while at least, was transparency. That all changed with Bisphenol-A polycarbonate, (or simply polycarbonate, for short) which combined strength, resilience with clarity. Clarity is a vital property for clinical and diagnostic purposes in which visibility of tissues, blood, and other bodily fluids is necessary.

Polycarbonate “clearly” answered that need. In fact, in the early days of its use, medical professionals were amazed that the syringe or vial they were using was indeed plastic and not glass itself, so “glass-like” did polycarbonate appear to them!

Indeed, the only property that indicated it was indeed a plastic syringe or other medical device was its weight: a plastic device simply felt lighter than the comparable glass version when utilized by the physician or nurse.  But polycarbonate has another advantage: biocompatibility. Biocompatibility can be defined as any material that does not produce a toxic or immunological response when exposed to the body or bodily fluids.  Because biocompatibility is vital for any device utilized in direct or indirect contact with patients, polycarbonate types are available that meet with testing standards such as ISO 10993-1 and USP Class VI.

Plastic Injection Molding Polycarbonate

While other molding methods are possible with polycarbonate, plastic injection molding remains the method of choice because of that processes’ ubiquity on the world’s industrial stage. AdvanTech Plastics is committed to remaining the “go-to” plastic medical device manufacturer in Illinois for now, and in the future.


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