After a successful week at Medtec 2012, Sam Anson summarises his top five takeaways from the show:
"The most important discoveries for me in the area of medical plastics is the use of automated technology for pre-fillable syringes and blow, fill seal (BFS) applications.
In pre-fillable syringes, Engel presented the results of a highly successful project, developed from the toothbrush manufacturing industry, to manufacture and assemble pre-fillable syringes in the mould - with the syringe chamber being moulded from a cyclic olefin polymer around the needle.
The project, which enables the replacement of glass in pre-fillable syringes, is a result of a Engel's careful work with its partners, including specialist German toothbrush automation experts Zahoransky, and German pre-fillable syringe contract manufacturers Trascoject.
The technology is proof of concept that highly precise in-mould assembly is now truly possible. Furthermore, it opens up new fields of proven technology in automated pre-fillable syringe manufacturing.
The key aspect to this technology comes from Zahoransky's needle feeding system (NFS) and is based on the automated handling of toothbrush filaments. Transcoject is responsible for the development work with its strong network of pharma customers.
The growth of blow, fill seal applications (BFS) for pharma companies was another key takeaway from the show. Much work is being carried out in the development of new polymer compounds which can be formed, cooled, filled and sealed in one process, without interruption. This provides exceptional promise for pharma companies wishing to invest in pharma packaging lines in lower cost countries around the world, especially India.
Number three development was the onset of TPUs and how these versatile materials are catching the eye of medical device OEMs, particularly with respect to their range of durometers. Representatives from USA-based Lubrizol were at the show promoting their new hydrophobic Tecothane Soft TPU, a potential replacement for silicones in medical applications.
Number four is my own observation of an apparent growth in the number of ISO 13485 certified suppliers. Despite the fact that there is no data to prove this, every time I visit a trade show, which is at least once every quarter, there seem to be more and more companies who have just achieved ISO 13485.
Number five is a piece of insight I gained into polycarbonates from resin manufacturer Styron. Speaking to Martin Lindway, the company's global medical marketing manager, I captured what it means to be a relatively new entrant in the medical device industry. Previously part of Dow Chemicals, Stryon's medical prowess is something of a hidden gem. They claim to offer the purest and most refined medical grade polycarbonate, ABS and ABS blends thanks to a purpose built dedicated medical production plant in Germany.
As the third largest polycarbonate resin manufacturer in the world, their line is open for business for custom manufactured polycarbonates, including filled and coloured grades. One visitor told me that their ABS is renowned for for glass replacement in drug delivery applications thanks to an exceptionally low level of residual monomer making the resulting polymer incredibly pure.