International Plastics News for Asia

When health is wealth

In the August issue of the International Plastics News for Asia, we looked at the role of advanced plastic materials in the medical industry. We saw how the medical industry has been reaping the fruits of R&D efforts undertaken by companies in the high performance materials for medical devices and instruments, as well as packaging and medical supplies. Designers of these medical products are now able to take advantage of the improved material properties, such as flexibility, biocompatibility, chemical resistance and transparency.

In terms of market, the Asia Pacific region is the fastest growing market for

medical plastics in the world, while the United States represents the single biggest market. The United States' demand for implantable medical devices is expected to rise by about 8% annually to reach $48 billion by 2014. In terms of end-use segments, medical product components represent the largest and the fastest growing segment as compared to medical packaging.

A lot of interesting developments in the medical field are thus made possible using plastics. One company, SensorMed, launched a disposable version of its CableCap™ laparoscopic safety device, which is designed to eliminate the risk of fire caused by high-intensity surgical light cables in operating rooms. The CableCap device is injection moulded of Udel® polysulfone (PSU) resin from Solvay Specialty Polymers for high heat resistance, strength, and excellent light dispersion.

Eisertech LLC which specialises in spinal implants, introduced its new cervical cage and lumbar cage implants made of Zeniva® polyetheretherketone (PEEK) rods. The material used has a modulus very close to that of bone plus excellent toughness and fatigue resistance. The cage systems, made from various sizes of Zeniva PEEK rods, are hollow so that bone can grow through the device, fusing the adjacent bony surfaces of the vertebrae.

An innovative prosthetic foot, made with Hytrel® from DuPont won the gold award in the rehabilitation and assistive technology products category at this year's Medical Design Excellence Awards (MDEA), a prestigious design competition for the medical technology industry. The Niagara Foot is an affordable, effective and field- adjustable prosthetic that enables improved mobility for people everywhere who have lost lower limbs. The foot, in its next generation, is now named the Rhythm Foot.

There are many more innovations in the medical field that will draw from the breakthrough materials developed by the plastics industry. These would bring numerous opportunities to companies developing materials solutions as well as the medical products manufacturers that are always on the lookout for new discoveries.