The top medical plastics news and trends of 2017

From the IV bag shortage in U.S. hospitals caused, in part, by Hurricane Maria to medtech company BD’s plan to build one of the most sophisticated plastic injection molding plants in the world, here is a summary of articles from PlasticsToday’s medical channel that resonated the most with readers. In the time-honored tradition, we begin the top 10 list in reverse order, with the ongoing shortage of IV bags.


Number 10: Blame it on Hurricane Maria?

In November, we asked the provocative question of who was to blame for the alarming shortage of IV bags in U.S. hospitals: Hurricane Maria, resin suppliers or medical device OEMs?

Puerto Rico is home to more than 100 drug and medical device manufacturers, and the hurricane severely impaired operations at many of these facilities. One of the effects that has been felt on the mainland is a shortage of IV bags in hospitals. According to some industry observers, the hurricane is only partly to blame—it merely brought to a head a problem that has been lingering for years. Here's the rest of the story.


Number 9: The problem with bioresorbable polymers

Materials expert Len Czuba, who heads product design and development firm Czuba Enterprises (Lombard, IL), provided some valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities of bioresorbable polymers in medical technology in an interview with PlasticsToday in January.

The value for the patient is obvious: “It stands to reason that after the bone or blood vessel or sutured tissue is healed, the medical device providing the support needed during that healing is no longer needed,” said Czuba. “If it were to remain in place, in the long term, the body would begin to react to it as it would to any other foreign object.”

But a number of challenges have prevented bioresorbables from making as big a play in the marketplace as they should. These include a reluctance on the part of materials suppliers to allow their materials to be used in what are classified as long-term implantables, design and manufacturing complexities and the high cost of compatible polymers.


Number 8: The war against BPA

Despite the fact that FDA, the European Food Safety Authority and other government agencies at various times have declared bisphenol A (BPA) to be safe for humans at current exposure levels, the Member State Committee of the European chemicals agency voted unanimously in June to identify it as a substance of very high concern. It was the latest salvo in the war against BPA, which is a building block of polycarbonate and, consequently, is present in countless products.

Industry groups have vowed to challenge the opinion, but the outcome may be predetermined in the court of public opinion. As we wrote in the article, “a steady drumbeat of BPA-related health concerns has prompted consumers to seek BPA-free products, while advocacy groups have been successful at pressuring corporations to seek alternative materials.

What's next for medtech innovation? Find out at Medical Design & Manufacturing (MD&M) West, co-located with PLASTEC West, at North America's most comprehensive annual event devoted to advanced design and manufacturing. The event comes to the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, CA, on Feb. 6 to 8, 2018. Register now and enter promo code PLASTICSTODAY to receive a 20% discount on conference sessions.

Number 7: Robots to the rescue

RenyMed (Baldwin Park, CA) began its one-man operation in the mid-1980s using borrowed equipment in a rented space. Today the company molds medical parts for Fortune 100 medical device companies across the globe. The fully integrated injection molding and mold design and build business ascribes its success to taking on jobs that other molding companies are unable to do. Equipment that is as nimble as the company’s workforce in satisfying high-mix, low-volume production is a central part of the process. This article explains how the integration of Wittmann Battenfeld robots is helping RenyMed to keep the customers satisfied.


Number 6: What color is your medical device? It matters

Medical devices must meet a raft of safety and efficacy requirements before they can be placed on the market. Color, typically, is not given much consideration, but it should be, said Christine Park, an industrial designer at Starfish Medical (Victoria, BC, Canada).

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