Medical-grade plastics are plastic materials manufactured following strict quality and safety standards demanded by the medical industry.
They are used for prototyping and manufacturing different types of medical devices and equipment, ranging from implants to surgical gloves. When it comes to medical-grade plastic, the options are many.
But it’s important to consider each property when selecting the best choice for your requirements. Let’s take a look at the common medical-grade plastics and the incredible benefits they offer.
Are Medical-Grade Plastics Safe for Use?
Yes. Medical-grade plastics are safe for use because they are biocompatible. They are non-reactive and non-toxic and don’t pose detrimental health effects to the patient or the user.
Moreover, they are manufactured using high-quality raw materials, following strict ISO standards. The structural integrity of medical-grade plastics makes them chemical-resistant and suitable for repeated sterilization.
In addition, they are also non-permeable, protecting the user from exposure to potential contamination or hazardous materials.
Why Choose Polymers for Medical Applications?
Polymers are very versatile in structure and usage. Medical-grade polymers have mechanical properties like strength, biocompatibility, chemical resistance, impact resistance, durability, etc.
They are highly suitable for heavy use in hospital settings. Moreover, polymers can also be reused and are sustainable materials for medical apparatus. Primary uses of polymers include tissue engineering, drug delivery, and packaging.
7 Types of Common Thermoplastics in Medical Injection Molding
Polyethylene (PE), especially HDPE, is a very durable and rugged thermoplastic. It’s renowned for its impact resistance and structural integrity. It’s a cost-effective material that’s easy to process.
Polyethylene also shows excellent chemical resistance, and its non-reactive and non-permeable characteristics are vital for protecting the user from potential health hazards. It’s light in weight and not biodegradable.
For these reasons, polyethylene is also a top plastic for designing implants. Its melting point is around 120 °C, and therefore, it’s a plastic that can be steam-sterilized.
LDPE is used for sanitary packaging and disposable medical supplies. HDPE is used for manufacturing robust surgical implants, bone grafting, protecting covering for medical devices, and many other applications.
Polypropylene (PP) is a polymer with good chemical resistance over most acids and solvents. It is an economical choice with good processability and is helpful for various applications in the medical field. Medical-grade polypropylene is strong and durable. It is also anti-corrosive and impact-resistant.
With a melting point between 161°C to 186 °C, it can withstand steam-sterilization temperatures very well. It also displays excellent flexibility and doesn’t tear or crack easily due to environmental stress factors.
The clarity of polypropylene is beneficial for manufacturing equipment like disposable syringes, Petri dishes, vials, and specimen bottles.
Another key feature is that it’s waterproof and ideal for medical coveralls and packaging purposes. Some other applications are dental implants, sutures, and finger-joint prostheses.
3. Polymethyl Methacrylate
Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) is a transparent and rigid acrylic polymer. It also displays excellent weather, chemical resistance, and scratch resistance, and there’s no doubt why it is considered an alternative to glass.
PMMA has a high melting point ranging between 200-250°C. The mechanical strength, UV stability, and lightweight of PMMA make it ideal for a range of applications.
PMMA’s excellent optical clarity allows for a high level of light transmission, and it’s used for manufacturing optical devices and endoscopic implants in the medical field.
It is also popular in dentistry for prosthetic dental applications like dentures, crowns, and artificial teeth. In addition, PMMA is used as bone cement because it is biocompatible.
4. Polyvinyl Chloride
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is an affordable plastic material with good chemical resistance, durability, and transparency. Its unique properties and versatility make it suitable for a range of applications.
It is an affordable material that’s light in weight, easy to process, and recyclable. PVC is considered very safe due to its chemical stability and biocompatibility. Its melting point can range from 82°C to 260°C.
PVC is available in both rigid and soft forms. Plasticizing can make PVC soft and flexible, but it needs to comply with the safety and performance standards to be approved for medical use.
It is used to manufacture life-saving medical supplies like blood bags, dialysis bags, catheters, oxygen masks, surgical gloves, nasal cannulas, tubes, and many more. The smoothness of the material improves the patient’s comfort significantly.
Polyamide (PA), also known as nylon, is an engineered plastic used for high-performing medical devices because it excels in chemical resistance and heat resistance. It also displays high tensile strength and durability. It is combined with other materials and used for skin dressings.
Nylon is also anti-corrosive and withstands abrasion very well. It doesn’t tear or puncture easily. Nylon’s melting point is above 200 °C and varies depending on the grade.
Medical-grade polyamide is used to make catheter tubes, suction equipment, feeding tubes, IV fluid bags, insulin pens, sutures, and other medical devices and supplies. It is especially useful for tubing due to low water absorption and minimal vibration and movement.
6. Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene
Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) is a rigid, hard, and stable material that can withstand multiple sterilization methods without losing its structural integrity.
Medical grade ABS plastic is resistant to chemicals, heat, stains, and abrasion. The luster of the polymer also makes it aesthetically appealing.
Due to mass polymerization, ABS is exceptionally white and displays a high level of purity. So, it is chosen for medical devices with an impeccable and bright surface finish.
ABS is used to make respiratory devices like inhalers, infusion systems, and auto-injection devices like insulin pens. The insulation properties of ABS make it valuable for designing housing for electronic medical devices.
Micro implants like tendon prostheses, medical masks, and tracheal tubes are some other applications.
Polycarbonate (PC) is an extremely tough, strong, and durable material resistant to impact, chemicals, and high temperatures. With a melting point of around 265°C, it is possible to sterilize polycarbonate using most methods.
It is also known for its biocompatibility and low water absorption. As a naturally transparent plastic, it is helpful in manufacturing medical supplies with excellent optical clarity as glass.
Polycarbonate is also used for some surgical instruments as it’s considered a lightweight and anti-corrosive alternative to metal.
Polycarbonate is a material found in life-supporting devices and equipment like blood oxygenators and blood filters used in cardiac surgeries and renal dialyzers. The material’s transparency helps medical professionals observe and monitor the fluids accurately.
Polycarbonate’s other applications include incubators and dental sealants.
Benefits of Medical Grade Plastics in the Healthcare Industry
Medical-grade plastics have become indispensable materials in healthcare today due to their versatility. They come with a range of mechanical properties that are desirable for challenging situations in the medical field.
As most of these materials are easy to process and come in varying thicknesses, they are useful for designing various medical devices and supplies. Also, plastics with high flexural strength can be easily molded into various designs and shapes.
Medical-grade plastics found in reusable healthcare products excel in durability and toughness.
However, it is essential to sterilize them to prevent infections or other health hazards that can arise from germs.
Products from these plastics boast impressive structural integrity to withstand the repeat sterilization cycles they undergo in the medical environment. The high melting points of these plastics make them resilient to autoclave temperatures.
Due to their chemical resistance, we can sterilize them using disinfectants and detergents used in the medical field. Most can be sterilized using steam, radiation, ethylene oxide, and vaporized hydrogen peroxide.
One of the vital requirements of medical equipment and devices is hygiene. Risks of infection and bacterial growth on medical supplies can have detrimental impacts.
Single-use plastics resolve this problem because we can dispose of them following treatment. They eliminate chances for cross-contamination and help health professionals offer optimum patient care.
Moreover, medical-grade plastics’ non-permeability and chemical resistance make them safe for the user. Medical-grade plastics like ABS also have a smooth surface, making them easier to clean.
The additives in the plastics also make them naturally antimicrobial. They can kill or minimize the chance of bacterial growth. You can keep the equipment and devices sterile without a lot of hassle.
Medical-grade plastics have revolutionized healthcare and increased its accessibility. They are readily available and cheaper when compared with metal and glass. The manufacturing cost of these materials is low because they are easy to mold and process.
They make healthcare services affordable and help patients benefit from it. Also, reusable medical-grade plastics are very sturdy and have a longer lifespan.
They are anti-corrosive, shatterproof, and impact-resistant, and healthcare professionals can use them for a long time with less maintenance.
As such, they are also likely to last longer than glass and metal medical supplies.
There’s much debate on how plastics contribute to environmental pollution. However, the focus should be on proper disposal of single-use plastics, managing waste in landfills, and recycling materials as much as possible.
Medical-grade plastics are recyclable, and reusable medical supplies have a longer lifespan. Most thermoplastics can be heated and remolded to a different product without losing structural integrity. Also, we can melt and reuse leftover plastic.
In this regard, plastics are a sustainable material.
Scope of Innovation
Medical-grade plastics come with unique mechanical and thermal properties. They are continuously being researched for more use in the medical industry to improve patient care and treatment, especially in life-saving situations.
For example, the use of nylon in tissue engineering as a substitute for metal implants has increasingly been researched in the medical field. Products like flexible plastic prosthetics that are lightweight, lightweight, and strong have proven to be highly effective for amputees.
We hope that in the future, medical-grade plastics will be engineered with even better qualities and used for much more purposes than it is now.
Kemal – Injection Molding Services
Kemal is a leading manufacturing company in China offering high-quality injection molding services.
If you are a research company, medical device manufacturer, or any other firm in the medical sector looking for high-quality plastic medical components manufactured at affordable prices, we’ve got you covered.
We offer a wide range of thermoplastics and other medical-grade polymers to choose from. Our long-standing expertise and advanced machinery help us design and deliver high-quality and durable medical supplies and device components.
We have the best resources for injection molding and can undertake parts with complex geometries. Get in touch with us today!
Medical-grade plastics will continue to dominate the health sector in the coming decade. Their benefits will only continue to expand in the future. We hope our guide on the types of medical-grade plastics and their benefits helps you make an informed decision.
If you outsource your medical device parts from a manufacturer abroad, it’s important to partner with a reliable company renowned for offering quality materials.