What to Consider When Choosing Plastics for Medical Applications

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Plastics have become one of the most popular materials in medical tools and parts – in some cases, even replacing metal altogether.

However, not all plastics are well-suited for medical applications. When considering a plastic, you’ll want to keep certain criteria in mind.

Why Choose Plastic for Medical Applications?

Plastics offer a lot of advantages to the medical field over other material selections. Per Medical Product Outsourcing Magazine, plastics in healthcare offer:

  • Sterility – Plastics are excellent for one-time use tools like surgical gloves and IV tubes.
  • Enhanced Safety – Because plastic is durable and shatter-proof, it’s a popular choice for both medical safety devices and storage options.
  • Increased Comfort – For the patients, plastic can offer a more comfortable alternative (especially in the case of prosthetics). Patients who are allergic to certain metals also benefit from plastic alternatives.
  • Innovative Applications – Plastics are at the cutting-edge of new medical technology. Plastic’s unique moldability and adaptability make it easier to create new uses.
  • Cost-Effectiveness – Plastics can be mass-produced at cost-effective rates. It can also be treated to be more resistant than some metals over time, reducing upkeep costs.

Overall, plastics make an extremely attractive choice for many medical parts – even those that have traditionally been made from metal.

What to Consider When Choosing Plastics for Medical Parts 

When it comes to choosing the right plastic for a medical part, there are many considerations to keep in mind.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is this part one-time use or repeated use?
  • What strain, pressure, heat, and/or wear-and-tear will this part be exposed to?
  • How will this part be used?
  • What level of flexibility is needed?
  • How complicated is this part?
  • Will the completed part or tool be implanted, used on a patient’s skin, merely contact a patient, or have no contact whatsoever with a patient?
  • What sanitation methods will this part be exposed to, and will it need to be sanitized repeatedly?

The best way to identify the specific plastic for your part is to consult an expert, but there are some general tips to keep in mind when looking at plastics:

  1. The plastic should be biocompatible. Unless your part will have no contact with a patient, you should always be choosing biocompatible materials.
  2. Thermoplastics are the most popular choice for medical parts (but not always the right solution – depends on the part!) This is because they’re very easy to craft into any shape, no matter the complexity.
  3. Consider the rest of the build process – if your part will be integrated into a whole tool, you need to consider if the part will be exposed to additional pressure, heat or other factors that may cause warping.
  4. Always remember the complete use cycle of the part/tool – you don’t want to choose a plastic that isn’t up to the task for repeated use.

To choose the best plastic, tap into your supplier’s knowledge – come armed with answers to the questions above, and they’ll be able to point you in the right direction.

Industrial Custom Products has decades of experience in a variety of industries using many different materials, processes, and technologies. We work with many medical companies and can offer insight to any application.

ICP’s quality manufacturing is award-winning, but first you need the nitty-gritty basics. ICP is ISO 9001:2015 registered. We inspect and optimize production processes through PPAP, CPK, First Article Inspections, and Gage R&R Studies. That reads like alphabet soup, but it’s the expectation for quality manufacturing. If you’re looking for a sourcing partner and don’t see these capabilities, run for the hills. Or to ICP. Run to ICP.

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Industrial Custom Products is a one-stop-shop for custom manufacturing and plastic fabrication, including: prototyping and product development, die cutting and dieless knife cutting, thermoforming and vacuum forming, large part thermoforming, CNC plastic routing, fabrication and assembly and drape forming.

Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash