Many industries can take advantage of antimicrobial resins. Examples where these resins are most commonly used include water-treatment systems, food packaging, plumbing and HVAC, medical/diagnostic equiptment, dental implants and personal care products. They are also utilized in clean room sensitive electronics testing and assembly, sterile packaging, conveyers, public transportation, and office equiptment.You may want to consider antimicrobial resins for your injection-molded product if surface bacterial growth is a problem and inhibits performance. Aesthetics matter, too—bacterial discoloration or bioslime can be huge turn-offs, depending on the use of the product. Chances are if the production environment has moisture, heat, and organic material, bacteria will be lurking there too, which could be problematic for operations.
Antimicrobial Resin vs. Antimicrobial Coating
Bacteria can be eliminated from these surfaces if they are manufactured from antimicrobial resins. These are different from the antimicrobial coatings that are sprayed onto products such as hip implants—this is popular in the medical field but the coatings are subject to erosion by joint action and abrade over time.
New advanced polymers are being made with an antimicrobial agent embedded in the resin itself, so the exposed surface is always a deadly place for bacteria. The antimicrobial compound is added during the manufacture of the resin and does not alter the physical or thermal properties of the resin—which still remains highly suitable for injection molding.
What is Ionic Silver?
There is quite a variety of antimicrobial agents to choose from, depending on product use and the polymer family selected. Ionic silver is one of the most popular and is highly effective as a broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent in medical and dental applications. Silver is known to kill over 99.99% of bacteria within 24 hours of contact and remains effective over the lifetime of the product—the silver ions short-circuit the bacteria’s ability to reproduce and they die quickly; better yet, silver does not harm human tissue. Antimicrobial resins have been developed than can kill the most deadly infections, including MRSA, an especially resistant and potentially deadly bacterial infection often found in hospitals.
Antimicrobial resins can be formulated for all standard injection-molding materials, including standard polymers, engineered polymers, and thermoset materials. Part of the challenge in engineering antimicrobial resins is finding the right “carrier” for the antimicrobial agent that integrates homogenously into the resin without altering its physical or thermal properties; chemical concentrations must also be carefully calculated to provide a steady release of ions at a pre-determined rate. Having a molding partner that has experience with critical use applications that necessitate this type of consideration can make all the difference.
Interested in learning more about the importance of resin selection? Download our guide on Resin Selections for Industrial Applications which provides key considerations that could be applicable to your next project.