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Tritan finds new application in IPG medical technology

By: Roger Renstrom

April 4, 2013

ANAHEIM, CALIF. — New IPG Photonics Corp. technology for welding translucent and transparent polymers works with a new-generation Tritan copolyester from Eastman Chemical Co.

Suitable for medical devices, the IPG technology can weld clear-to-clear polymers with fiber lasers and create welds almost invisible to the human eye, said Helen Sirett, medical business segment manager with Eastman in Kingsport, Tenn.

Oxford, Mass.-based IPG makes fiber lasers and amplifiers and has manufacturing facilities in the U.S., Germany, Russia and Italy.

The IPG technology allows for high-strength welds using more powerful lasers, Gary Hawkins, Eastman technical platform leader for food and medical extrusion applications, said in an interview. The technique allows Tritan's strength, clarity and proc­- essing attributes to be maintained. Eastman avoids use of bisphenol A in making the copolyester.

Typically, a laser energy-absorbing additive is compounded with a polymer for welding. Particularly with medical devices, that raises questions about biocompatibility. The IPG technology avoids the need for that type of additive.

Numerous applications using Tritan copolyester are under development in various markets, but would not have been possible without the new IPG welding technology, according to Tony Hoult, senior applications manager for IPG's technology center in Santa Clara, Calif. The technology's benefits for medical-device makers include fully hermetic, leakproof, precision joints.

Separately, Melicor Medical LLC of Boulder, Colo., has commercialized a laparoscopic lens internal cleaning system with a grip handle made of a proprietary Eastman blend of Ecdel elastomer and Eastar copolyester.

Trademarked LLICS, the patent-pending surgical instrument can clean a laparoscope lens during minimally invasive surgeries.

The flexible, durable polymers create a living-hingelike grip handle that can undergo repeated squeezing throughout a surgical procedure, Sirett said Feb. 14 during the Medical Design & Manufacturing West trade show in Anaheim. The polymers provide chemical resistance against lipid bodily fluids, even after sterilization.

The Melicor instrument -- 5 millimeters in diameter and 30 centimeters in length -- fits cleanly into a trocar cannula. A surfactant on a deployable sponge cleans the lens without requiring removal of the laparoscope. Conventional methods require removal of the instrument from the body cavity, wiping off and possibly placing the laparoscope in hot water to keep it warm.

The Food and Drug Administration has granted clearance for the device. Melicor seeks to make the product available in Europe and elsewhere.