As the demand for medical devices continues to grow, OEMs are under pressure to design more robust, reliable, and versatile devices at a reasonable cost. Injection-molded plastic has become increasingly popular for housings, brackets, and small parts on monitors and other out-of-body devices.
But several trends are placing increasing demands on plastics in hospitals and home healthcare environments. Here are four of them and their implications for part design:
Medical devices are being exposed to more corrosive chemicals than ever before. Because of the rise of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) and strict COVID-19 protocols, a new class of harsher disinfectants is being used to sterilize devices more frequently. Plastics used in these settings must be able to withstand constant disinfection.
The more aggressive surfactants used in today’s sanitizing agents can cause stress cracking and discoloration of conventional thermoplastic parts. For transparent plastics, they may cause hazing over time.
Devices that administer harsh drugs, such as those used in cancer treatment, also expose plastics to a variety of chemicals that can damage them over time.
Finally, some polymers may be sensitive to common contaminants in the home, including natural aromatherapy oils on a patient’s skin.
Design engineers and molders must pay careful attention to the environments these devices “live” in to make design and material selections that can meet these challenges head-on.
Many medical devices are being miniaturized to make them more portable for increased utility in hospital settings. For the growing in-home medical care market, there is also a growing demand for small devices that can be discretely worn while patients go about their daily lives.
This leads to smaller sensors and instruments, which must be tightly integrated and mounted in space-saving ways. This, in turn, places new demands on plastic components. Reliability is a must in both environments.
In addition, as the number and variety of devices multiplies, manufacturers are being pushed to accommodate greater product variation and customization. That is forcing them to adopt agile manufacturing methods such as robotic assembly. This trend implies that housings and components must be designed so they can be quickly and easily assembled using automation.
Devices used in hospitals need to handle being moved and bumped around. Devices in homes must be able to withstand being dropped or tipped over during daily operation. In these environments, impact-resistant plastic materials are a must.
To meet fire safety standards, medical devices with wire-housing cases must be flame retardant to prevent an electrical fire in the event of faulty wiring. Usually, flame retardants are added to polymers to inhibit combustion.
Part design expertise
New Berlin Plastics understands the many challenges that design engineers face. We apply a combination of people, processes, and technology to each project to help our customers optimize part designs, efficiently launch projects, and maintain high part quality throughout the production lifecycle.
Optimize part design
Our well-honed design for manufacturing (DFM) process ensures that we identify part design, tooling, and manufacturability issues up-front, before launching a tool build. Our Scientific Injection Molding process uses in-mold data, not machine settings. That helps us produce consistently high-quality parts at an affordable cost.
You can find more information on our Scientific Injection Molding practices here.
Efficiently launch and manage projects
Our proprietary LaunchLogic process streamlines project launches and helps us achieve validation for production faster. It also ensures that each project stays on schedule. Customers receive weekly progress reports that enable efficient communication and collaboration throughout the project. That results in better accountability and project visibility – and a 98% on-time project launch track record.
New Berlin Plastics has a systematic process to monitor and analyze data throughout the entire production run. It enables our production staff to predict, prevent, contain, and adjust variables that could lead to poor part quality. Inconsistencies are identified and addressed, lowering the risk of bad parts entering your supply chain. That keeps our production costs low and our part quality high.
New Berlin Plastics has the expertise, processes, and technology to take on your medical device component production projects. Contact us today to discuss your needs.