PHILADELPHIA (June 4, 1:20 p.m. ET) — Taking aim at wound care and garment applications for the medical industry that have more demanding color applications, Foster Corp. has invested close to $1 million to add a compounding line for custom pre-colored polymers used in Class 1 medical applications.
“It is designed to serve high-volume medical applications such as bandage or packaging film where color is critical and cost is important,” said former company executive Dan Lazas, who now heads his own marketing company, but still provides marketing direction for Foster.
Foster, based in Putnam, Conn., already supplies compounds for minimally invasive devices such as tubing and catheters, said Christine Howe, director of manufacturing.
“Wound care is the big market, but also hospital gowns or any kind of fabric used in the hospital,” Lazas said at the Medical Design & Manufacturing East show, held May 22-24 in Philadelphia. “This is not for devices that go into the body. This is for things outside the body—Class One devices that have to be done right and look good.
“We are getting interest from companies that make Class 1 devices who were looking for the kind of expertise we offer—but who wanted things in high-volumes,” Lazas said. “This allows us to serve them better with faster and better equipment.”
The new twin-screw line, which began operations earlier this year, can do traditional strand cutting as well as underwater pelletizing and has a capacity in excess of 1,000 pounds/hour.
The underwater pelletizing is designed specifically for low durometer materials such as urethanes and thermoplastic elastomers.
“This allows us to better supply injection molders that are making fittings, tubing and piping. It expands our range of customers in the injection molding community,” said Foster CEO Larry Acquarulo.
“It also gives us the opportunity to provide customers with products beyond radiopaque and transparent tubing and catheteters,” added Lazas. “It is designed for colored film, colored tubing and colored fibers where getting the color right is critical.”
Lazas said Foster also made the extrusion investment because “the medical device market is becoming much, more competitive.
“A lot of strategies are being driven by better yield, better productivity and gaining an economic advantage,” Lazas said. “Our customers want a better, simple method and something to keep their costs down as a device company. They don't want yield losses.”
“We see a lot of opportunities in Class 1 color applications,” said Lazas. “Color is becoming part of the differentiation for companies.
“People have had a historical mindset to use masterbatches,” he said. “But they are begin to realize that they can save money by switching over” to pre-colored polymers, even though the polymers are more expensive, per se.
“The better yields, the consistency of the polymers and the manufacturing efficiencies [from using pre-colored polymers] adds up to a total cost savings,” Lazas said. “The high-end thermoplastic elastomers and types of materials we process are more expensive, but they are still pretty reasonable and we can provide a total lower cost.”
Looking at other areas of the business, Lazas said Foster sees “a lot of growth opportunities in implantables and its delivery science segments” as well.
“There is a lot of blending of bone growth additives into bioabsorbable materials”—particularly the addition of radiopaque materials so the implant can be seen on x-rays, he said.