Advancements to polymers and injection molding technologies have contributed to widespread adoption of plastics in the medical industry. All segments of the medical industry have embraced the benefits of plastics, and are looking to incorporate more plastic in their designs in 2018 and beyond. Low cost plastics, for example, have enabled the creation of disposable plastic instruments, syringes, gloves and gowns that, in turn, help reduce the spread of infections within the hospital environment. Plastics have also replaced glass in a variety of laboratory consumables, improving lab safety while reducing consumable costs.
Likewise, high performance polymers contribute to the longevity and friction-free movement found in current generation artificial joints. Handheld medical devices and instruments also use plastics to reduce device weight, improve functionality and/or lower device cost.
The current plastics revolution in the medical industry shows no signs of slowing down, as ongoing research into innovative polymers, improved processing techniques, and novel post-processing technologies are expanding the possibilities for plastics throughout the medical industry.
An Ever-Changing Process
Injection molding processes continue to evolve. At the design stage, rapid prototyping allows molders to create physical prototypes to verify form, fit and function before finalizing the mold design. Advancements to mold simulation software gives molders a detailed look into mold filling and helps to identify issues early in the design phase.
Advancements to control technologies improves repeatability and gives better control over process variables, which translates into precise molding of even the most intricate parts. Together these molding technology advancements shorten product development time, reduce development costs and open the door to a range of new applications.
The Growth of Polymer Science
Polymer science continues to be an exciting area of development in the field of medical injection molding. New materials and additives exhibit improved stability, reduced shrinkage and other properties that deliver improved performance in molding applications. Additionally, the mechanical strength of polymers continues to evolve, allowing them to be viable substitutes for metals in a range of applications.
Beyond the physical properties of the materials, the work on next generation polymers seeks to incorporate unique functional properties to the polymer. One example is the incorporation of antimicrobial materials in injected molded plastics, inhibiting bacterial growth on the molded part.
Pharmaceutical Plastic Research
Another growing area of research for injection molders is pharmaceutical plastics. These plastics are suitable for ingestion or implantation, and provide a controlled release of medicine into the host. An example is the development of bioresorbable polymers. Plastics in this family can dissolve, or remain in the body, and help support bone/tissue growth or be used in the manufacture of dissolvable stents.
Internet of Things (IoT)-Integrated Medical Devices
Given the steady growth of the in-home medical device sector and new advancements in medical technology, injection molded plastic medical devices play a key role in IoT-enabled medical tech today. From things like telemedicine to wearable or portable medical devices that collect personal data and notify a doctor or family member in the case of an emergency, monitoring patients from home has become much easier thanks to today’s IoT integrations. As more people look to self-manage their care, the need for internet-connected medical devices and wearables will only grow, along with the need for high-quality plastic designs.
The development of various post-molding processes further expands the suitability of plastics into a range of applications. Processes like ultrasonic welding and laser micromachining continue to evolve and are compatible with a range of medical plastics. These secondary operations simplify assembly of complex plastic components and provide new possibilities for device designers.
The future for medical injection molding is bright. At Kaysun, we understand the needs of the industry and maintain a strong commitment to the medical device field. Our team has experience designing and processing parts with a variety of medical grade polymers, and we know that when dealing with medical devices, consistent quality is of paramount importance.
Please feel free to contact us or read our scientific molding whitepaper to learn more about how an experienced injection molder like Kaysun can improve upon an existing product or help bring a new product to market.