Global polycarbonate producers are pouring significant resources into the medical market, which they view as an important growth area.
Bayer MaterialScience, Sabic Innovative Plastics and Styron (the former Dow polycarbonate business) have a strong presence at this week's MD&M West show in Anaheim, CA, and are exhibiting several new products and applications.
Bayer MaterialScience (Pittsburgh, PA), for example, showed a next-generation defibrillator from Cardiac Science Corp. made from a polycarbonate/ABS blend. Dickten Masch Plastics molds the battery case and housing, which contains the electronics for the device.
BMS and Sabic IP (Pittsfield, MA) both introduced new polycarbonate grades said to offer good color retention following gamma sterilization.
Sabic IP also introduced a portfolio of nine grades of silver-based antimicrobial compounds for its polycarbonates, polycarbonate blends and polypropylene.
Styron introduced Emerge PC/ABS 7700 Advance Resins for powered medical devices offering ignition resistance and color stability over time. Styron also introducing a range of ISO 10993-tested colorants for its polycarbonate resins.
The introductions come on the heels of very strong across-the-board performance for polycarbonate in 2012. Overall PC sales were up 10% last year, Jim Chrise, who heads PC for the BMA NAFTA region, told Plastics Today in an interview at MD&M West. He said that sales are off to a more sluggish start this year because of uncertainties about the fiscal cliff in the United States and concerns about the European economy.
He indicated there is volatility in demand from the automotive market, but that medical demand continues to grow steadily.
Those sentiments were echoed by executives of other PC producers.
"We're increasing our focus on the medical market with creation of this new portfolio of anitmicrobial grades that respond to problems with increasing rates of infections in hospitals," said David Wildgoose, GM engineering resins-North America for Sabic IP. He said that that an increased level of antimicrobial protection is achieved with no compromise in processing capabilities. The products are sold through the company's LNP compounding unit.
Tony Samurkas, global R&D director for Styron (Auburn Hills, MI) said in an interview that Bain Capital, which bought the engineering resin assets from Dow, is investing in new capacity and product development. ."Compounding in the medical market is where we putting a lot of our innovation focus," he said. Adding that the company can respond faster to market changes because of its now smaller size. One area of focus is solvent resistance to make polycarbonates more suitable for disinfecting with harsh chemicals.
He said there are customer questions about the effects of bisphenol A, a component of polycarbonate that was under attack for its use in baby bottles and other products. "We're monitoring the situation. They're monitoring the situation. We are still getting good reception in the medical market."
Polycarbonate is an excellent structural material that is often used for equipment housings, such as the Bayer MaterialScience defibrillator.