Mega molders. Growing technical and global coverage requirements are spawning development of a special class of molders, or plastics contract manufacturers as they prefer to be called. The trend has been accelerated by the entrance of venture capital funds anxious to invest in the industry. One example is Phillips-Medisize (booth 3011), which acquired Phillips Plastics in 2010 and used then added Medisize in 2011. Another example is MedPlast (booth 2801), which is helmed by former Milacron executive Harold Faig. Minnesota Rubber & Plastics (#1455) was recently purchased by Norwest Equity partners. Other major plastics processors at MD&M West West include Nypro, Mack Molding, Tech Group, Prent, Flambeau, Perfecseal, and O'Sullivan Films.
In-home care. Moving patients to home-based care reduces hospital costs, and also reduces the risk of acquiring dangerous infections. It also creates the need for equipment made from engineering plastics that must be lightweight and mobile. Polycarbonate blends will be one of the winners because they offer impact strength, flame resistance, and chemical resistance. Leading players are Bayer MaterialScience (#2021) and SABIC (#1701).
Plastics implants. Major resin producers avoided (and have even refused to allow) use of their products in human implant applications because of litigation risks. Two producers, Victrex and Solvay Specialty Polymers (#841), repositioned their PEEK businesses into special value-added businesses that target implants. Business has soared with significant new applications announced monthly. An analysis by medical compounder Foster Corp. (#1814) shows a sharp overall increase in plastics approved for implants. "In 2001 there was only one FDA 510(k) clearance with PEEK polymer featured in the registered name of an implantable device. In 2011 there were 17 such clearances, and this year there were six in the first quarter alone."
Antimicrobials. New Medicare rules enacted three years ago disallowed reimbursement for care of infections acquired in hospitals. That spurred a flurry of development of plastic compounds that resistant microbial attack. It's likely to continue as a theme at this year's MD&M event, but at a reduced rate, particularly since new research data shows that hospitals had already begun winning the battle against infections even before the new rules went into effect. Separately, look for an emphasis on super purity of materials. Medical device manufacturers want materials that are totally free of contaminants, including animal derivatives. This is also a factor for molders, who will have an opportunity to see Arburg's all stainless clamping unit at booth 3959.
Cost containment. Injection molded assemblies that reduce parts and costs are a major element in the battle on costs. Look for examples and expertise on this area at several booths, including DuPont Performance Polymers (#2133), DSM (#1515), PolyOne (#3213), BASF (#1574), SABIC (#1701), Solvay (#841), Ticona Engineering Polymers (#1994), BMS (#2021), Evonik (#3128), and Eastman Chemical (#2515).For injection molders, Engel's exhibit (#3715) will emphasize cost containment.
Specialized technology. One of the highlights of MD&M West is searching the nooks and crannies looking for gems of technical development. One area of development has been in ultrathin multilayer extrusion to meet demands for catheters. New systems are fully integrated and may include a micro extruder producing layers only a few microns thick. Interrupted/intermittent layer extrusion is on the horizon. Extrusion specialists at MD&M West include Helix Medical (#2015), MedPlast (#2801), Polyzen (#1748), Renolit Medical (#2410), Teleflex Medical (#3001), and Vention (#1539).