The medical device industry is striving to reduce cost while producing exceptional products that benefit the end customer. Over the last decade the development of engineered resins have opened doors to new opportunities for plastic injection molding. Plastics are becoming a dominant material choice for manufacturers supporting the medical industry.
Plastic injection molding has thousands of resins to choose from, and the right combination of fillers and base resin will produce a part that can outperform metal in the right environment. Many parts that have been traditionally considered only for metal are now a feasible option through injection molding, and can save companies up to 50% through the complete manufacturing cycle. Cost is a simple answer and just one reason to break tradition. Here are other reasons why the medical industry is staying focused on plastic parts over the next decade:
- Reduced Manufacturing Side Effects – Plastic injection molding produces few side effects and has very little scrap material after the injection molding process. Extra lubrication for manufacturing processes and extra labor isn’t a requirement.
- Reduced Tooling Investment – Metal casting and stamping dies can take 12-16 weeks to complete after the initial design is complete. Plastic injection molding dies can be completed in as little time as 6 weeks. Reducing the manufacturing tooling development time in half means you can start producing parts in half the time. Plastic injection molds can last up to six times as long as casting and stamping molds also, which will reduce the replacement cost over the life cycle of the product.
- Unlimited Design Options – Complex metal product designs often require a significant amount of development time and cost to ensure casting or stamping molds will survive a long life cycle without a need to replace dies or parts frequently. Casting can often be a speedier design as it uses molten metal that can flow to form complex shapes, but it doesn’t offer crisp corners and tight radiuses well. Plastic injection molding has the ability to use pressure to fill the mold completely regardless of the corner conditions. Plastic products have also seen a rise from 3D printing as new equipment, software, and materials are in constant evolution making the option very viable for smaller companies with turnkey solutions.
- Corrosion Resistance – Plastic is naturally corrosion resistant by nature, where most metals need a secondary or tertiary operation to apply a coating to resist corrosion. Some metals are inherently corrosion resistant based on their alloy mixture, but that can also add extra cost.
- Regulatory Compliance – The global marketplace has seen borders being crossed with new products every year. Regulatory compliance has become a difficult aspect to continually stay abreast of as it’s an ever-moving target. Additional coatings and certain materials may be regulated in foreign countries. Converting a product to plastic may negate the need and cost of a secondary coating, plus make it easier to export to foreign markets.
- Reduced Product Weight – With the simple mention of plastic inherently weighing less than metal, engineered plastics can reduce the overall weight of most products. Reducing weight can positively reduce shipping costs and make ergonomic improvements within a manufacturing process.
Those six reasons are just the tip of the iceberg concerning plastics being used in the medical device industry. Over the last few years, plastics have been developed into their own category for the medical industry. Medical grade plastics are now a distinct group of polymers that are primarily used for the healthcare and medical industry. These plastics show favorable characteristics for being lightweight, biocompatible, having a low cost for manufacturing, and being recyclable. These medical plastics are quickly replacing metals in medical devices and products used frequently. Medical tubing including catheters and syringes, implants, surgical and dental instruments, and diagnostic equipment are quickly incorporating medical grade plastics, or even replacing metal products altogether. Technology has also aided the incorporation of medical plastics as 3D printing can now manufacture products such as prosthetics and orthotic braces uniquely designed for each patient.
Medical device industry grade plastics and engineered resins offer competitive advantages when chosen for the correct application. They can increase strength, add heat stability, offer lower costs, and allow designs that aren’t capable of reliable production with other materials. Finding the right solution can be aided by an expert mold maker that also offers resin selection, turn-key assembly options, and program management to see the complete development cycle through with success.
If you need expert advice from a partner that can help with your next product idea, call us (425) 339-0288 or email us at email@example.com. We can offer you advice on the best technology to use, the best materials to meet your product demands, and how to navigate through each development stage.
Matthias Poischbeg was born and raised in Hamburg, Germany. Matt moved to Everett, Wash., after finishing his bachelor’s degree in business in 1995 to work for Sea-Dog Corporation, a manufacturer, and distributor of marine and rigging hardware established in 1923.
In 1999, Matt took over the reins at Sea-Lect Plastics Corporation, a sister company of Sea-Dog and a manufacturer of plastic injection molded products with an in-house tool & die shop. Matthias Poischbeg is also a contributor to Grit Daily.