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From demographics to disinfectants, PolyOne keeps finger on pulse of medtech customer needs

PlasticsToday spoke with Charles Kutchin, Global Industry Director for Healthcare, to get a sense of how the company approaches customers in the medical device industry, one of the many sectors it serves. As with any successful venture, it all begins with an understanding of customer needs and harnessing the capabilities to fulfill them.

A global supplier of specialized polymer materials to a swathe of sectors, PolyOne (Avon Lake, OH) will have an expansive and multifaceted presence at NPE2015. The company notably will showcase technologies that help its customers and their products stand out from the competition in its meeting center and through several technical presentations. More on that in a minute. PlasticsToday spoke with Charles Kutchin, Global Industry Director for Healthcare, to get a sense of how the company approaches customers in the medical device industry, one of the many sectors it serves. As with any successful venture, it all begins with an understanding of customer needs and harnessing the capabilities to fulfill them.

Sad but true: we're not getting any younger. Nor is the population in general, and that is having a profound impact on medical product design. "Ergonomics is not a new trend, certainly, but it continues to be a high priority in our collaboration with customers," says Kutchin. Materials have a significant role to play. "Nonslip surfaces and easy-to-grip materials such as thermoplastic elastomers are important for surgical instruments but also for remote and point-of-care devices," he says.

Ergonomics is also a concern in healthcare packaging, Kutchin adds, and that is an area where PolyOne has expended a great deal of effort, especially since the 2013 acquisition of Spartech, a producer of custom plastic sheet and roll stock and packaging technologies. PolyOne has added new capabilities in healthcare packaging as a result in its Designed Services and Solutions business.

PolyOne also provides assistance in sourcing and developing materials for infection control, notes Kutchin, an area that is gaining increased attention. "A new wave of more aggressive disinfectants will be on the market soon," says Kutchin, "and PolyOne has been working with customers on developing materials with heightened chemical resistance that can stand up to these chemicals." It's a growing market, as well. "Based on forecasts that we have seen, there is double-digit growth in materials for infection control. It's growing faster than the overall healthcare market," says Kutchin.

The days of simply supplying a customer with a narrowly defined product or service are long gone. Companies are looking for collaborators who will help them solve business challenges, an approach that has long been part of the PolyOne ethos and that has served the company exceptionally well in the medical space.

Many of our customers are dealing with capacity constraints because of consolidations, rising demand, and so forth, says Kutchin. "In some subsectors of the device market, we are seeing 10 to 11% growth in demand," he notes. "As a result, we make collaboration a priority to help customers improve their productivity and mitigate this challenge. For example, PolyOne offers materials and colorants that are precertified to ISO and USP testing protocols, which helps medical device OEMs accelerate time to market."

As mentioned above, the healthcare market is but one of the sectors that PolyOne serves. The company also provides a portfolio of materials and associated services to the appliance, construction, consumer products, electronics, packaging, textiles, transportation, and wire and cable markets. PolyOne's partnering spirit and technical acumen across all industries will be on display at its NPE2015 meeting center in room S230 BC as well as a number of conference presentations.

In room S230 BC, the company will illustrate how its technical expertise in specialty polymer, colorant and additive technologies helps customers differentiate their products in functional and aesthetic ways. PolyOne is also a co-sponsor of the NPE3D pavilion (booth S35014), an extension of its work with academic and industry experts in the development of advanced materials and production parts using additive manufacturing technologies. And a number of PolyOne experts will be addressing a range of topics at various conference events during NPE2015:

SPI Business of Plastics Conference

Giles Branthwaite, Strategic Project Manager, PolyOne ColorMatrix: “Accelerating color development and supply with an innovative liquid color system”

Victoria Sayer, Global Regulatory Manager, PolyOne ColorMatrix: "Achieving global clearance for new food-contact plastic additives"

IDSA South Pre-Conference Design Sessions

Chris Bray, PolyOne IQ Design, Panelist: “Bridging the communication gap: How to ‘talk designer’”

ANTEC 2015

Jane Spikowski, PolyOne: “Fatigue performance of fused deposition modeling style: 3D printed vs. injection molded”

Roger Avakian, PolyOne: "A formulator’s perspective on meeting needs in the plastics marketplace"

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