High-performance resins from Solvay Specialty Polymers are being used in a pair of new medical applications.
A grade of Ixef-brand polyacrylamide (PARA) made by Alpharetta, Ga.-based Solvay is being used in several components of a staple fixation system for foot surgeries. The STAPiX-brand system was developed by medical device maker Instratek of Houston.
Instratek chose the Ixef resin for its high strength and stiffness, excellent moldability and attractive price point for single-use medical devices, officials said in a recent news release. “Our engineers initially explored several materials for this application, including ABS and PEI, but none could match Ixef PARA's unique combination of mechanical properties,” Instratek engineering director Lance Terrill said in the release.
Dane Waund, Solvay global health care market manager, added that the staple fixation system “underscores Solvay's deep understanding of emerging health care trends and our collaborative approach to delivering the materials solutions customers need.”
Medical-grade Ixef resins are available worldwide in a broad range of gamma-stabilized colors, making them well-suited for single-use medical device applications that must maintain excellent aesthetics despite repeat sterilization by gamma radiation or other methods, officials added.
In a recent phone interview, Waund said that Solvay “is seeing a trend to replace metal in more demanding medical applications.
“It's a cost reduction play and also offers lighter weight,” he added. “We're seeing applications make the switch in a lot of single-use applications, but in some cases, customers want a reusable part as well.”
In the area of medical lighting, surgical systems maker Medical Illumination International is using medical-grade Udel-brand polysulfone (PSU) and Radel-brand polyphenylsulfone (PPSU) from Solvay in a more compact version of its flagship MI-1000 surgical lighting unit.
Solvay's high-performance polymers form three injection-molded components in the unit. In addition to supporting stable placement of the lamp during surgery, Udel and Radel polymers allow the molded parts to deliver durable performance after frequent chemical disinfection and steam sterilization, officials said in a recent news release.
San Fernardo, Calif.-based MII “owes its success in this market to the meticulous design and reliable performance of its surgical lighting systems, which meet or exceed the demanding requirements of the operating theater,” Chief Operating Officer Steve Rowey said in the release. Solvay's materials “consistently exhibit a high level of quality and performance — from the molding process to the end-use application,” he added.
The parts were injection molded for MII by Mold Precision Engineering of Simi Valley, Calif. MPE President Peter Minaskanian said in the release that Solvay's materials “process easily, offer value-added options for overmolding and deliver dependable performance from batch to batch.”
Many pieces of large medical equipment also are switching from less-intensive engineering materials such as PC/ABS to Solvay's more specialized materials, which Waund said can handle repeated sterilization.
Other areas of medical market growth for Solvay include hand-held devices, which Waund said might get wiped with disinfectants as often as 50 times a day. Health care generated 12 percent of sales for Solvay Specialty Polymers in 2014, ranking as the unit's fourth-largest end market.
Solvay has been an active supplier to the medical market for more than 25 years. The firm also offers Solviva-brand biomaterials for use in a range of implantable devices.
Solvay makes Radel and Udel resins at a plant in Marietta, Ohio. Ixef is made at a European site. Both materials then are compounded at various locations around the world.
The new medical applications continue a busy year for Solvay Specialty Polymers and for its parent firm, Solvay SA of Brussels. In October, Solvay expanded its technology reach by acquiring the long-fiber thermoplastics business of Epic Polymers GmbH. The deal includes Epic's LFT technology, as well as a compounding line at Epic's plant in Kaiserslautern, Germany, where Epic is based.
In January, Solvay completed its $220 million purchase of the Ryton business from Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. Then in July, Solvay announced its $5.5 billion deal for Cytec, a major composites supplier based in Woodland Park, N.J.
Solvay also in September opened a fluoroelastomer plant in Changshu, China. The firm will add a compounding line in Chiangshu in early 2016 as well.
Mid-2016 additionally will see the opening of Solvay's new world-scale Ketaspire-brand PEEK plant in Augusta, Ga. The new plant will allow Solvay to become the first global-scale PEEK supplier. The firm also operates a plant in India.
Solvay employs 26,000 worldwide and posted global sales of more than $12 billion in 2014.