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Irish compounder improves lubricity of medical-grade Pebax

Low-durometer polymers often are used to manufacture catheters and medical tubing because they afford flexibility to the physician who is navigating the device through the vasculature while minimizing patient trauma. However, the material's inherent friction can lead to manufacturing and packaging issues and create complications in the final application. Innovative Polymer Compounds (IPC; Kilbeggan, Ireland) has developed a material based on a medical-grade polyether block amide from Arkema, Pebax MED, that improves lubricity and adds functionality.

Norbert Sparrow

May 16, 2014

3 Min Read
Irish compounder improves lubricity of medical-grade Pebax

Low-durometer polymers often are used to manufacture catheters and medical tubing because they afford flexibility to the physician who is navigating the device through the vasculature while minimizing patient trauma. However, the material's inherent friction can lead to manufacturing and packaging issues and create complications in the final application. Innovative Polymer Compounds (IPC; Kilbeggan, Ireland) has developed a material based on a medical-grade polyether block amide from Arkema, Pebax MED, that improves lubricity and adds functionality. IPC will showcase the material at the forthcoming MEDTEC Europe event in Stuttgart, Germany.

IPC-250.jpg"Materials with a low Shore hardness tend to have tackiness issues," David Howard, IPC Marketing Director, told PlasticsToday. "We tweaked the formulation of Pebax in terms of lubricity and, to some extent, conductivity." This was achieved by adding a nano additive to the material, called PEBASlide, that resulted in a measurable improvement in the coefficient of friction.

The additive significantly lowered the dynamic coefficient of friction on dry samples and on samples lubricated with a 40%-wt aqueous glycerol solution to mimic the viscosity of blood, says Howard. A 36% reduction in coefficient of friction was achieved using material prepared with a low loading of the nano-additive per ISO 8295/ASTM 1894 test methods. By adding a hydrophilic Pebax grade, the coefficient of friction was reduced even further to 55% below the virgin resin. The improvement in coefficient of friction was observed in a variety of samples including flat test plaques, extruded tape, and tubing, according to Howard. Moreover, samples prepared using this new formulation had good dimensional stability; the percentage change in weight and dimensions remained low when measured at 37°C over 24 hours.

While other technologies for imparting lubricity to low-durometer materials exist, they have a narrow process window when they are being tailored for a given application, says Howard. You are limited to adding no more than 10% of an additive, he explains, because exceeding that percentage would result in screw slippage. These techniques—compounding low-durometer materials onto base polymers and applying coatings—have other drawbacks that may include base polymer swelling, coating migration, and possible cross contamination, according to Howard.

A startup founded in 2008, IPC relied on the resources of CRANN, a research institute within Dublin's famed Trinity College, and CCAN, a public body that helps Irish companies leverage nano-enabled innovation, to develop this material. Publicly funded initiatives such as these, which are an integral part of Ireland's industrial landscape, "provide startups and small companies such as ours with the resources of world-class research and testing facilities that we would never have access to on our own," says Howard.

PEBASlide currently is available in hardnesses of Shore 40D to 75D, and the company is now looking at applying this technology to thermoplastic urethanes.

Norbert Sparrow

Norbert Sparrow is Senior Editor at PlasticsToday. Follow him on twitter @norbertcsparrow and Google+.

About the Author(s)

Norbert Sparrow

Editor in chief of PlasticsToday since 2015, Norbert Sparrow has more than 30 years of editorial experience in business-to-business media. He studied journalism at the Centre Universitaire d'Etudes du Journalisme in Strasbourg, France, where he earned a master's degree. Reach him at [email protected].

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