Our 24th Year of Publication
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Cover Story

Medical Plastics - New Materials & Technologies Help Medical Device Industry

The Medical Device Industry is making important contributions to advances in healthcare supported by emerging polymeric materials and technologies for processing of the materials. There are numerous opportunities related to development of products for this industry.

To deliver value to the patients, the global medical technology industry invests heavily in Research and Development. The level of R & D spending in the medical device and diagnostics industry (as a percentage of its sales) has increased 20 percent on a cumulative annual basis since 1990.

This has resulted in a significant impact on medical technology through advances in polymer and materials science thereby growth of the medical polymers’ market. Medical Plastics processing companies focus on R & D to provide innovative polymers and high quality services to their customers. They also aggressively collaborate and enter into joint ventures with medical device companies.

We take this opportunity to highlight some of these important breakthroughs by various companies covering materials, manufacturing as well as applications.




• New Elastomers With 5000 % Elongation At Break


.A US based company Gelest Inc. recently introduced a new class of elastomers that achieves unprecedented elongation and shape-recovery properties. The silica nano particle reinforced material approaches 5000% elongation at break; for example, a two-yard piece of the elastomer can stretch the length of a football field and return to its original shape. The material can be used as the base polymer in microfluidic devices, used for in vitro diagnostics, that can be stretched and rolled without failure. Its properties also hold potential for wearable medical devices that can be stretched to suit various anatomies and nextgeneration prosthetics.


• Sponge-like Polymer Graft For Spinal Surgery


Scientists have engineered biodegradable polymer grafts designed to repair damaged vertebrae in the spinal column.Typically, surgeons insert expandable titanium rods via minimally invasive surgery (MIS) to treat this condition. Lichun Lu, PhD, of the Mayo Clinic, and her postdoctoral fellow, Xifeng Liu, PhD, sought a more affordable material that would work with the MIS approach. They found a material that could be dehydrated down to a size compatible with posterior spinal surgery, and, once implanted, would expand to replace the missing vertebrae through fluid absorption.


• Medical-Grade Polymers Revolutionize Tampon Technology


The Flex company USA, has developed a tampon that promises “mess-free” sex during menstrual cycles as well as a more comfortable overall wearing experience.


The product is a disposable, single-use menstrual product that can be worn safely for up to 12 hours. The outer edge of the disc is made of a proprietary blend of medical-grade polymer, which conforms to the user’s natural shape under exposure to body heat to create a leak-free seal. The soft center catch collects rather than absorbs the menstrual fluid. The circumference of the edge is made to fit inside the vaginal fornix, covering the cervix, and preventing menstrual fluid from entering the vaginal canal, explains the company on its website.


• New Breast Pump Using TPE Materials


German materials firm Kraiburg TPE partnered with BeauGen LLC to design Perfect Latch, a new product for breast-feeding mothers. Perfect Latch acts as a cushion between the breast pump and the mother’s skin to make it more comfortable to pump and to protect sensitive skin areas.


• Innovative Materials For Bioengineered Tissue Adhesives, Sealants And Fasteners


Incisive Surgical Inc.’s patented Insorb 20 subcuticular skin stapler is a sterile, single-patient-use device that deploys up to 20 absorbable staples, sufficient to close a 17-centimeter incision. The Insorb 20 represents a new skin closure modality designed to combine the cosmetic result of an absorbable suture with the rapid closure times associated with metal skin staplers.


The absorbable staple offers increased patient comfort over metal staples while eliminating the need for metal staple removal post-operatively. The product also provides lower risk of infection and may shorten operative time, compared to other wound closure methods.


The staple is composed of a copolymer of polylactic acid and polyglycolic acid, which is absorbed by the body over a period of a few months. The disposable stapler is made of sterilizable acetal.


• Polyurethane Foam Pad For Wound Dressing


3M has innovated with a highly absorbent, breathable wound dressing that is constructed from a conformable polyurethane foam pad, and an additional absorbent nonwoven layer from National Wovens, with a border of transparent adhesive film impermeable to liquids, bacteria and viruses.


The polyurethane foam pad prevents exudate pooling and migration onto surrounding tissue while the film barrier helps prevent external contamination and exudate strike-through, and evaporates moisture vapor out of the dressing. The 3M foam adhesive dressing is used for treating moderate to highly exuding dermal wounds such as pressure ulcers, neuropathic ulcers, abrasions and first- and second-degree burns.

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