from the company's stand at Fakuma, the international plastics processing tradeshow that was held in Friedrichshafen, Germany, last week. And the company is well positioned to make that happen, he adds, by leveraging existing medical applications and spreading the word about its production capabilities and quality systems.
The company currently is producing an inhaler valve made from a PET blend for one OEM, says Brakel. "We make 300 million inhaler components annually with our Arnite material, a high-performance engineering plastic that combines high strength and rigidity with optimal processing characteristics [enabled by the material's] high purity and narrow viscosity range," he explains. "The material's consistency and flowability is what got us this business," adds Brakel.
The drug-delivery device has a specific dosing design, and DSM had to perform extensive tests to determine the quantity of leachables and extractables in the material. "We were one-third below the minimum level, making Arnite the best performing PBT in the industry," says Brakel. "That should put us in an excellent position to further grow our business in medical products such as inhalers."
The company also has found success in the surgical gown and drape sector with its Arnitel VT material. "The VT stands for vapor transmission, and the material is breathable and comfortable as well as being 100% impermeable to bacterial and viral microbes," explains Brakel. In the United States, DSM Engineering Plastics supplies one of the leading manufacturers of gowns and drapes. The material's dual barrier property has been instrumental in gaining this business, but EU regulations are less strict, and that has slowed its acceptance in Europe.
"Europe only requires these products to provide a 100% barrier against bacteria, not viruses," says Brakel. If and when EU regulations change—and it's not unreasonable to think that the Ebola outbreak may be an impetus—DSM Engineering Plastics will be very well positioned to grab market share in Europe, adds Brakel.
DSM Engineering Plastics also offers batch-to-batch production that complies with good manufacturing practices, notes Brakel. "We provide a stable and smooth process for critical manufacturing applications that healthcare customers require. We just need to remain alert to take advantage of windows of opportunity," says Brakel, in a sector that, because of strict regulatory requirements, is reluctant to switch materials unless there is a very compelling reason to do so.