The use of light-curable materials (LCMs) in the medical device industry continues to gain popularity and support for their ease of application, cost savings, and fast-acting results. At the 2014 Medical Design and Manufacturing Show in Anaheim this week (MD&M West), conversations with attendees confirm that these materials resonate well with a market focused on fast, economic, and reliable solutions.
Compared to other forms of adhesion, the application of UV/visible light to materials containing photoinitiators (ingredients that react upon exposure to certain wavelengths of light) is a fast process that often takes less than 15 seconds to cure the materials fully. Variations in the uncured physical properties of LCMs such as viscosity, or differences in the light sources used to cure them, can cause the cure speed to fluctuate from one second to thirty seconds. Despite this fluctuation in cure time, LCMs set much quicker than alternative methods of adhesion, such as two-part epoxies and urethanes that can require hours to cure. They also provide the speed that is essential for the mass production of disposable medical devices, such as needles and catheters.
Many of the economic benefits that make solvent-free LCMs a superior choice for bonding and adhesion are also factors that help preserve the environment and worker safety. Since many LCMs have up to a 12-month shelf life, frequent materials replacement is not necessary. This consequently decreases the amount of material disposal. When cured LCMs are discarded, they are typically classified as non-hazardous waste and can be disposed of following simple industrial plastic waste regulations. While some solvent-free LCMs have a higher cost per pound compared to solvent-based adhesives, their prolonged shelf life and simple disposal procedures ultimately save manufacturers valuable time and money, while also helping preserve the environment.
Superior bond strength is another essential component for critical medical device applications. Solvent-based adhesives can lead to stress cracking in plastics and other substrates, resulting in weakened bonds and a higher failure rate. Solvent-free LCMs help reinforce bonds between substrates for long-lasting, secure adhesion, and decreased waste.
Light-curable materials are the perfect match for the medical device industry where failure is simply not an option. Production of the most commonly used devices, such as needles and catheters, cannot be left to slow, expensive, and unstable solutions. We expect to see a continued use of LCMs in the medical device field as new equipment rolls out and process speeds accelerate even further. We’re excited to see where we’ll find LCMs at next year’s MD&M West!
Tony Ieraci is the marketing communications manager at Dymax Corp.