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Injection Moulding Asia Medical Devices

Polymers to take up a healthy growth Despite the higher prices, plastics are more versatile and with healthcare equipment becoming more sophisticated, the materials address the need for mobility/portability of the devices especially for a homecare setting. The healthcare industry is exhibiting increased interest in miniaturisation, homecare and aesthetics for medical devices. The new report, “Western European Market for Polymers in Medical Devices,” said that polymers earned revenues of EUR602 million in 2011 and are projected to reach EUR1.075 billion in 2018.

Innovation, performance, quality and price are important factors influencing the use of polymers in medical devices. Although polymer prices are set to increase gradually, they are, nevertheless, expected to replace other materials like glass and metals. Therefore, the ability to engineer and customise polymers according to varied application needs will create lucrative opportunities.

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he medical devices market is among one of the recession-proof industries where technology is second nature. There is an increasing demand for replacement materials to make medical devices safer and more convenient to use. Reportlinker, in its recent market report, said that the medical plastics market is forecast to grow rapidly in developing regions such as Asia Pacific and Latin America. In comparison to other vertically growing markets, such as automotive and construction, the medical sector is a low-volume market. However, it offers opportunities for higher margins and is less tied to GDP growth. Meanwhile, the Western European market for polymers in medical devices is set to reach the EUR1 billion mark in six years. According to Frost & Sullivan Research analyst Tridisha Goswami, the market will be driven by an ageing population and the increasing replacement of glass and metals, which are hallmark materials for medical devices but slowly giving way to polymers.

Low volume but competitive olymers for use in medical applications, which are typically extruded by either paste and melt extrusion, have already been around for decades now, with high performance polymers now becoming standard materials. As such, demand for PVC, silicone, TPE and other engineering plastics is increasing. Polymers with higher chemical and impact resistance and superior mechanical and thermal properties top the bill for most medical applications, including tubing, wound care, adhesives and lubricants.

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Scottish firm PWB Health’s Breastlight, a hand-held cancer detection device, uses Sabic Innovative Plastics’s Lexan and Cycoloy resins for the housing and lens

However, despite being low-volume, the market is defined by high competition and innovation. Efforts to advance polymer functionality and diversify the application base will help companies establish their presence in the market. “It has to be noted though that governmental pressure to lower healthcare costs are likely to limit profit margins of polymer suppliers,” cautioned Goswami, adding, “The market is highly regulated and product development is expensive and time consuming.” Goswami says that due to intense competition, market participants have to diversify their product lines and be a one-stop-solution for all healthcare material needs. “Manufacturers should focus on developing

US firm Styron’s Calibre Megarad 2091 PC resins are developed for medical devices undergoing gamma and electron-beam irradiation. The firm’s Emerge PC/PET 9500CR advanced resins are also developed for equipment housings, balancing chemical and ignition resistance to address the need to combat hospital-acquired infections and guardpowered devices

3 SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2012

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Medical Devices novel, high quality products that meet the particular needs of varied applications.” An example in innovation is traditional wound care, which has a healthy market for films that are also used in a variety of packaging, disposable medical products and single use devices. According to a 20112016 Wound Care Market forecast by the Freedonia Group, the market is growing due to the ageing population and rise in non-communicable diseases. Meanwhile, mobile devices in telemedicine are also a rapidly emerging application in the healthcare system. Nowadays, personal mobile devices are utilising polymers for mobile components, such as biobased polymer phones and polymer lithium batteries. Antimicrobial plastics at the forefront ne such example of innovation that is propelling the plastics medical devices sector is the use of antimicrobial/antibacterial plastics, a high-revenue segment forecast to account for about 20% of the global plastics market in the near term. By 2017, it is estimated to reach 221,758 tonnes, according to a market study by Global Industry Analysts. Based on the report, the US is the largest global market with the Asia Pacific market also expected to rapidly expand at a CAGR of 16% through 2017. China and India are potential markets for antimicrobial products due to factors such as high population density, among others. Epidemics, emerging new infectious diseases as well as wide-scale campaigns versus prevention of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) are boosting the antimicrobial polymer technologies. Recently, a group of British researchers from the University of Nottingham innovated a new class of polymers that repel bacteria, thus preventing medical device-associated infections and medical device failure. These polymers can be applied to the surface of medical devices and prevent biofilms, moist surfaces where bacteria thrive, from forming. The infections caused by microbial biofilms on implant surfaces often cannot be treated with conventional antibiotics.

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Resin supplier PolyOne’s subsidiary, NEU Specialty Engineered Materials, recently entered into a strategic relationship with Microspec Corporation to develop antimicrobial formulations for smalldiameter catheters and medical tubing based on PolyOne’s Withstand antimicrobial technologies. NEU’s antimicrobial solutions for medical devices such as catheters and tubing are said to enhance the ability to kill bacteria at the point of treatment. Small-diameter catheters are increasingly used for paediatric applications and to promote adult patient. Microspec can also layer antimicrobial additives in the outer portion of multi-lumen tubing, which can help keep costs down and places the antimicrobial on the surface and outer band of the device where it is needed

4 SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2012

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IMA Sept-Oct 2012 Medical Devices