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The Growing Use of Plastics in the Medical Industry in 2019

The requirement of new products and parts in the medical industry has been growing. Professionals keep needing instruments and supplies that are modern and meet the exact medical demands. The growing use of plastics in the medical industry is a result of this growing demand. 

However, stringent legal standards for medical products have made plastics a very niched down market that all manufacturers can not meet. That said, more and more manufacturers are now willing to take the challenge of creating medical plastic parts that serve the patients. 

While conventional plastic molding techniques had their own limitations, modern plastic injection molding techniques have revolutionized the medical equipment manufacturing industry. 

Just like other industries keenly leveraging the injection molding technology, the medical sector too is making huge advances. 

use of plastics in medical industry

The article talks about the use of plastics in the medical industry, the evolution of medical grade plastics, the advantages of injection molding techniques, and the future of plastics in the medical sector. 

Use of Plastics in Medical Industry

With the invention of plastic injection molding techniques, the interest of manufacturers in using plastics for medical applications has seen a huge surge. 

The benefits of using plastics over metals has been one of the major reasons for this growth. Metal-based medical tools have now been replaced with plastic alternatives. Additionally, new concepts have been made possible with the use of plastic parts. 

Concepts like single-use medical examination kits which make use of sterilized plastic instruments, as well as disposal cases,  are an example of the use of plastics in the medical industry. 

use of plastics in medical industry

Medical Grade Plastics

The standards and limitations for the use of materials for medical applications are very stringent. With the invention of various types of materials with suitable properties and injection molding techniques, the possibilities of use of plastic resins for medical applications have increased. 

Following are the key considerations for selecting medical-grade plastic resins:

  • Strength: Depending on the type of medical equipment being considered. 
  • FDA rules: Are different for different medical devices (tubings, implants, surgical instruments, etc)
  • Thermal and Chemical resistance: Important aspects, considering medical sterilization needs. 
  • Molding techniques: Different plastic resins can be selected depending on the molding technique being used- injection molding or insert molding
  • Operating conditions: Includes factors like corrosion resistance, temperature, strength, flexibility, radiation exposure, etc present while the device is used.

Commonly used plastic resins for the production of medical devices include:

  • Polyethylene- the ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene is an ideal material to create prosthetics
  • Polypropylene- the polymer is used where autoclave sterilization and radiation stabilization processes are required. This is because of the material’s ability to withstand high temperatures. 
  • Polystyrene- used for its hardness
  • Polycarbonate- used for its heat and UV resistance as well as transparency properties. PC is commonly used to produce medical tubing. 

Medical manufacturers use these materials for the production of different equipment and medical parts that meet the desired quality demands. 

Various medical processes like surgeries, implants, drug allotments, orthotics and prosthetics, pharmaceuticals, heart pump parts, etc have seen an improvement with the use of plastic injection molding techniques. 

The Advantages of Injection Molding Techniques in Medical Applications

Medical industries, till the last decade, were ruled by precision-cut metal equipment and tools. With advantages like being able to get precise geometries as well as properties of metals to hold their composition to the sterilization temperatures, there wasn’t really another choice. 

use of plastics in the medical industry
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However, the invention of different types of plastic resins, as well as the evolution of plastic injection molding methods changed the scenario. Modern resin molding techniques allow complex geometries and precision standards to be easily met, thereby acknowledging the use of plastics in the medical industry. 

Additionally, designers now have the choice to play with properties like lightweight, flexibility, texture options, rigidity, heat and chemical resistance, considering that metals are not the only options anymore. 

Sterilization is an important aspect for medical equipment. Modern plastic polymers are suitable to hold various sterilization techniques like UV light sterilization, high heat techniques, liquid/chemical sterilization, etc. 

As mentioned earlier, single-use pre-sterilized kits are an extremely viable option that has evolved with the advances in plastic injection molding techniques. The parts are less expensive and easier to discard as compared to their metal counterparts. 

The unique demands of the designs of medical parts, tools, and equipment call for unique fabrication techniques that work in sync with the stringent standards for healthcare applications. 

Plastic injection molding using medical-grade resins qualifies the desired standards within the sector. Medical grade parts made by plastic injection molding techniques offer multiple positive features like chemical and thermal resistance, durability, high quality as well as cost-efficiency. 

Key Medical Equipment Using Injection Molding

The healthcare industry has a high dependence on multipurpose plastic products and parts that are manufactured in bulk. A good number of these parts are single-use kits and need to be disposed of after use to maintain sterility. 

use of plastics in the medical industry
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Medical equipment ranging from plastic syringes, surgical equipment, diagnostic drug test kits, cups and jars for organ harvesting, tubings, and clips, cardio surgical devices, housings for medical equipment, catheter tips, etc are produced using injection molding techniques. 

Plastics and the future of the Medical Sector

Plastics are an integral part of the future of the healthcare sector. And there are no two opinions on that. 

Every year comes with new advances in technology with the invention of new ideas and materials that challenge the old concepts. 

The use of plastics in the medical industry along with the development of modern techniques like plastic injection molding, insert molding, etc have made it possible for designers to create precision tools that can be mass-produced. 

The possibilities of reaching patients across the globe, with devices that are easy and fast to manufacture and convenient on the budget are now being realized. 

The acknowledgment and adoption received within the medical industry is an indication of the brilliant inventions that the healthcare sector is yet to see. 

Final Words:

Manufacturing medical parts and equipment using medical-grade plastic along with modern injection molding techniques have revolutionized the medical industry. The use of plastics in the medical industry along with the benefits of injection molding is not just ideal for high volume productions but is extremely cost-effective too. 

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