Lubrizol invests to grow medical unit

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Chris Sweeney/Rubber & Plastics News Apur Lathiya, senior business development manager, medical devices, at MDM West in Anaheim, Calif.

Anaheim, Calif. — Lubrizol Corp.'s LifeSciences unit has added thermoplastic polyurethane compounding abilities through a partnership with a medical compounder.

Compounding Solutions, which operates 13 compounding lines and consists of more than 70 employees, will provide compounding for Lubrizol's Pellethane and Isoplast branded products for the medical device industry. The new service will allow Lubrizol to provide custom color matching, safe identification and aesthetics in medical device applications.

The firm also offers radiopaque materials for X-ray identification.

"It provides supply chain simplification," Apur Lathiya, senior business development manager, medical devices, said at the recent MDM West show in Anaheim. "Customers can now come to us and we can do the whole thing. They're working with one supplier now.

"OEMs want to do less of the manufacturing. They want to do more design, development and sales and marketing. That bodes well for Lubrizol LifeSciences because we should be benefiting from that trend. We also see the trend of working with less contract manufacturers. The more you can offer your customer, the more valuable you are to that customer. That's what's driving a lot of our investments both on the thermoplastics side and the silicone side."

Pellethane is a thermoplastic polyurethane available as aromatic polyethers, known for its flexibility and range of hardness. Lubrizol said the compound works for medical applications like tubing, catheters and other short-term uses.

Isoplast, another TPU, is designed for rigid polymer requirements because of their high tensile strength and impact resistance. The firm said the compound can be used to replace polycarbonate when stress cracking is an issue or coloring is difficult.

Lubrizol also introduced a new non-softening thermoplastic elastomer. Branded Tecobax, the compound allows Lubrizol to go into markets or applications where historically TPEs couldn't be used because of their softening nature. Lathiya said the material is very resilient with a strong coefficient of friction.

Lubrizol also disclosed it is continuing investment for both silicone and thermoplastic products. Its silicone unit — Vesta Inc. — built two Class 7 clean rooms, with one finished at the end of 2016 and another in progress. The combined space will total 15,000 square feet.

Lathiya said the firm invested $5 million in dip casting technology for breast implant products and $1 million in new extruders.

Vesta also is receiving investment on the thermoplastic side for secondary operations, including tip forming, tube flaring, pad printing, hole punching/drilling, precision cutting, reflow and braided tubing lamination, along with some other processes.

It also entered an agreement with Sientra Inc., where Vesta will establish manufacturing capacity for a long-term supply arrangement for its premarket approved breast implants.

"We've historically in the silicone division worked in the breast implant market through various different components, but never making the full completed breast implants," Lathiya said. "It made logical sense because we found a good partner in Sientra to build that capability out."

Purchased in 2014, Lubrizol's Vesta unit is a custom contract manufacturer that focuses on silicone, thermoplastic extrusion and silicone fabrication.