Many of the new plastics on display at the recent MD&M West show in Anaheim, Calif. were developed specifically to help fight disease, especially the infections that hospital staff and patients are getting in large numbers. Most of these materials have been developed with antimicrobial properties, some in varying levels that can be tuned for specific medical device or equipment applications. The durable, multi-use versions of these plastics may be also applicable to other uses where surfaces are being touched by many different hands, such as ATM machines, automobile interiors, and consumer electronics.
Other properties include the ability to remain intact after experiencing different sterilization environments. There’s also the beginnings of a lightweighting trend in medical devices, Bruce Fine, Bayer MaterialScience’s market segment leader for medical and consumer products, told us at the show. So far, most of the other company spokespeople I interviewed said that this was a side effect, so to speak, of the replacement of metals by medical-grade plastics. In any case, medical devices are definitely getting smaller and lighter in weight.