Shanghai — Eastman Chemical Co. is squarely targeting Chinese superbugs with a disinfectant-ready copolyester for medical equipment.
"Many times in life when we try to solve a problem, there are unintended consequences," said Tammy Trivette, medical global marketing director for Kingsport, Tenn.-based Eastman's Specialty Plastics, Advanced Materials division.
Liberal use of disinfectants may squash germs but takes a toll on medical equipment, Trivette said at a Shanghai news conference in late April, on the eve of Chinaplas.
Compounded in Kingsport, the company's MXF221 is a flame-retardant copolyester that can resist cracking, crazing, discoloration and hazing in electronic medical-device housings and hardware, Eastman said.
"You have to make sure your equipment can hold up to [different] disinfectants," Trivette said. "Alternative materials have a hit-and-miss performance."
The 98-year-old company wants to work with Chinese companies on the design, regulatory and marketing challenges of implementing the flame retardant in medical equipment, Trivette said.
"Eastman is positioned to help Chinese OEMs," she said. "We never just send a pellet to the medical market."
Eastman announced MXF221 earlier this year at the UBM Advanced Manufacturing Expo in Anaheim, Calif. The pre-Chinaplas announcement marked the product's formal Chinese rollout.
To aid medical device makers, Eastman has developed a non-proprietary four-step test protocol based on ASTM International standards. The protocol can help designers predict the reliability of a plastic component after exposure to disinfectants, drugs, lipids or drug-carrier solvents.
The mainland China medical device market is in the midst of a long-term boom. It is expected to rise from 308 billion yuan ($46.4 billion) in 2015 to 600 billion yuan ($90.4 billion) in 2019, according to the organizers of the MedTec China trade show in Shanghai last year.
That pot of gold explains why many overseas material suppliers such as Eastman are eager to team up with Chinese customers.
Despite widely publicized talk of a U.S.-China trade war, Eastman wants to be a steadfast cross-Pacific partner, said Randy Beavers, Eastman's Shanghai-based global sales director.
Higher tariffs "will likely hit our business" but Beavers is unfazed: "We are committed to our Chinese customers. We're in this market for the long haul."
Beavers said the companyis happy with the performance of its Treva bioplastic in China, which it introduced to the local market at last year's Chinaplas in Guangzhou.
About 100 Chinese customers, mostly in the ophthalmic and cosmetics packaging industries, are working on Treva projects, Beavers said.
Eastman posted 2017 global sales of $9.5 billion. It has about 14,500 employees.