Many of the new plastics on display at the recent MD&M West show in Anaheim, Calif. were developed specifically to help fight disease, especially the infections that hospital staff and patients are getting in large numbers. Most of these materials have been developed with antimicrobial properties, some in varying levels that can be tuned for specific medical device or equipment applications. The durable, multi-use versions of these plastics may be also applicable to other uses where surfaces are being touched by many different hands, such as ATM machines, automobile interiors, and consumer electronics.
Other properties include the ability to remain intact after experiencing different sterilization environments. There's also the beginnings of a lightweighting trend in medical devices, Bruce Fine, Bayer MaterialScience's market segment leader for medical and consumer products, told us at the show. So far, most of the other company spokespeople I interviewed said that this was a side effect, so to speak, of the replacement of metals by medical-grade plastics. In any case, medical devices are definitely getting smaller and lighter in weight.
Click on the image below to see some of these innovations -- it will feel like you were there.
DuPont Performance Polymers showcased its wide range of plastics for medical and healthcare applications. These materials are similar to engineering resins and thermoplastics, but have been adapted for medical use. "They have similar chemistries, but we provide heightened manufacturing controls and testing," Diana Salvadori, North America healthcare manager, told us. They include Delrin POM and Hytrel, as well as the more recent Delrin SC 699. On exhibit was the Rhythm Foot, shown here, the second-generation version of the flexible yet durable prosthetic Niagara Foot made by Niagara Prosthetics. The original version was injection molded in one piece from DuPont's Hytrel 8238 thermoplastic polyester elastomer. This prosthetic device was designed for very active people, such as soldiers who've lost a foot due to landmines. The material, combined with the design, lets the device act as a spring, giving the wearer a more natural gait.
(Source: DuPont Performance Polymers)