With hospitals and device makers looking for ways to cut costs and reduce risks while improving their environmental footprint, materials companies flooded the Medical Design & Manufacturing West show with innovations.
The innovation portfolio for the future is looking very different from 10 years ago, said Greg Nelson, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Eastman Chemical Co. in Kingsport, Tenn.
It is the fuel of our growth to replace materials with materials that are sustainable and offer less risk. We are driving in that direction.
We continue to look to develop materials and technologies for more demanding applications, Larry Johnson, health-care marketing director for PolyOne Corp. in Avon, Lake, Ohio, said at the Feb. 9-11 show.
For example, PolyOne's GLS thermoplastic elastomers business introduced a clear Versaflex HC TPE for medical tubing. The new TPE augments five medical grades of the material introduced a year ago that are phthalate- and halogen-free and can be extruded or injection molded, allowing the same material to be used in tubing and connectors.
Teknor Apex Co. in Pawtucket, R.I., and Vesta Inc. of Franklin, Wis., also introduced tubing innovations at the Anaheim show, aiming for increased shares in the medical tubing market, which uses 400 million pounds of material annually in the U.S. 80 percent of it PVC.
Teknor Apex unveiled its Medalist MD-500-series compounds that it said are the first fully practical alternative to PVC for many tubing uses. Vesta introduced its non-metallic-reinforced, kink-resistant tubing that has silicone inner and outer layers and can currently be used in tubing applications with inside diameters of 1-6 millimeters. It is kink-resistant, has increased burst pressure and uses a two-step manufacturing process that makes the manufacturing of catheters more efficient, said Bill Woinowski, Vesta's research and development manager. I think we can manufacture it in sizes as low as 0.05mm.
This technology, he said, offers a cost advantage over current designs while improving product performance and reducing the risk of failure. The tubing, which has been in development for a year, opens a few more doors because it can be used in any application where the tubing has to take a tortuous path.
When you start talking about larger size and thinner-wall applications, we feel it has great potential, he said. Potential uses include anywhere tubing is part of a flow-control system, connecting tubes, access devices, suction devices, and breathing, vas- cular and draining tubes.
Teknor Apex said its Medalist MD-500 compounds are an alternative to PVC tubing, which often contains DEHP di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate.
Through no fault of the phthalate family of plasticizers for flexible PVC, market interest in replacing them is rapidly mounting in Europe and North America, particularly in the medical-device sector, said Peter Galland, industry manager for the vinyl division of Teknor Apex. Mounting opposition has device manufacturers scrambling for alternatives.
With that in mind, Teknor Apex introduced its new non-vinyl material for tubing, which delivers PVC-like performance, according to Elliott Pritikin, new-business development specialist in Teknor Apex's TPE division. Clarity and kink-resistance have been a real hurdle for non-PVC materials, but we have developed that with our new material, which he said is clear and has enhanced sterilization resistance.
In addition, he said Teknor's new Medalist MD-500 compounds can be sterilized using both the ethylene oxide sterilization process and gamma irradiation with the resulting color change equal to or less than vinyl materials.
Pritikin said potential applications include infusion tubing, respiratory tubes, feeding tubes and peristaltic tubing.
'We aren't going after PVC tubing applications, Pritikin said. We are offering an alternative to someone wanting to go away from PVC because of concerns over phthalates. We are in position to support PVC and non-PVC.
There is a lot of negative perception of PVC among the public, added Nick Sandland, senior market manager for medical products in Teknor Apex's TPE division. And sometimes perceptions dictate reality.
Tubing wasn't the only area where new innovations surfaced.
Sabic Innovative Plastics US LLC introduced three additions to its LNP Stat-Loy specialty compound line that have permanent anti-static properties and are targeted toward drug-delivery applications, said Tom O'Brien, product marketing manager for health care at Sabic IP. They are aimed at improving the efficiency of [delivery devices], whether it is an inhaler or pill counter.
Drug manufacturers and distributors want to ensure they are giving out the right amount of medication and this will enable them to do that, said O'Brien. Static electricity is a major challenge in the effective use of inhalation devices because tiny drug particles can build up electrostatic charges that cause them to adhere to the device instead of being dispensed to the patient. These compounds provide permanent anti-static performance to prevent that.
O'Brien also said Sabic continues to work on providing materials that allow thinner walls for housings but retain the same impact resistance, and to develop materials that can make medical products and devices smaller and more portable.
With home health care, things are getting smaller and more portable, O'Brien said. And with more products now going home with the patient, materials have to be more chemical-resistant because you don't know what people will be using to keep them clean. The products become a piece of furniture and must satisfy that concern as well, he said.
The medical industry needs to create designs that connect with the patient, and put parts in front of humans that make them feel human, agreed Nelson of Eastman Chemical, which announced at the show a partnership with DD Studio in Carlsbad, Calif., to develop and design potential medical applications that are focused on such innovations.
It has grown more important for materials suppliers and designers to work together, said Scott Hanson, global industry leader for the medical market segment of Eastman's specialty plastics business. Through our collaboration, we can help designers who are creating state-of-the-art medical devices to bring them to market easier and faster, and also consider next-generation materials to solve industry issues.
Eastman also unveiled MP100, a new grade of its Tritan copolyester aimed at rigid medical packaging markets, following on the heels of its introduction of Tritan for medical applications a year ago.
Tritan solves some problems the industry has had with parts fracturing in packaging, because it is more resistant to drop-impact, said Hanson. Tritan retains its toughness over a longer period of time than other materials, he claimed. It fills a high-performance need for medical packaging.
In addition, because of Tritan's temperature resistance, companies that want to sterilize at higher temperatures can save money because they can speed up the ethylene oxide sterilization process.
Using Tritan for packaging also allows customers to reduce secondary processes and eliminate foam inserts and cardboard packaging, further reducing their costs, Hanson said.
Eastman also displayed a prototype of a double-dose cup that showcased the ability to join Tritan parts together, without adhesives or fasteners, using a technique known as cold swaging. The technology, developed for Eastman by DD Studio, lets part designers and fabricators bend, crimp and fasten two plastic parts together in a watertight seal using their natural friction, avoiding the use of chemicals, adhesives and mechanical fasteners.
Critically, the process also cuts the cost of manufacturing, improves the ease of assembly and enables the same part to be made with both thick and thin sections, said Hanson.
I expect there will be some announcements this year regarding the use of Tritan in several medical applications possibly in areas such as fluid management and intravenous components or containers, said Hanson.
The key to the future, Eastman's Nelson said, will be to help medical providers minimize hospital-acquired infections, cut costs and reduce the use of resources. We all need to lower our footprint, he said. Tritan will be a key enabler for that.
Other product introductions at the show included:
* A single-use, anti-needle-stick device for pre-filled syringes from Safety Syringes Inc. made from Bayer MaterialScience's Makrolon Rx 1851 resin.
* New elastomer-derivative, performance-enhancing materials for catheter tubing from Clariant International Ltd.
* Twelve new grades of engineering polymers from DuPont Co. with lower material density that make it easier to form geometrically complicated parts and also help minimize finishing operations.
* An expansion by PolyMedex Discovery group of its NanoMed nanoparticle technology to include thermoplastic formulations for the minimally invasive device market.
* New TPE compounds from Teknor Apex that the company claims have double the adhesive strength of standard TPEs when over-molded onto high-density substrates; as well as a new gamma-stable rigid PVC injection molding compound with the strength and clarity needed for tubing connectors, luer locks, valves, drip chambers and instrument handles.
* Bayer MaterialScience's new brand name, BayMedix, for its medical products, coatings, adhesives and custom compound formulations.
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