It’s no secret that the adoption of polymers and plastics in medical and healthcare applications has accelerated rapidly in the past few years. According to Grand View Research, the global market size for medical plastics was estimated to reach $33 billion by 2025. Offering a robust value proposition due to their superior physical and chemical properties, these premium advanced materials are paving the way for healthcare innovation. As Jim Buonomo, member of the SPI Plastics Market Watch work group, explains, “The pace of innovation in medicine, and in particular the applications of evolving plastics technology in medical devices, is accelerating at a breathtaking pace.”
According to Strategic Business Insight’s “The Rise of Medical Polymers”, engineering polymers were first used in experimental medical implants in the 1980s. From there, researchers went on to conduct clinical studies in the 1990s that helped characterize the biocompatibility and in vivo stability of engineering polymers. These days, manufacturers such as Solvay, DSM, and DuPont are flexing their considerable financial and R&D muscle to increase engineering plastics functionality, investigate improved biocompatible materials, and create technology platforms that can significantly enhance human life.
It’s no secret that the adoption of polymers and plastics in medical and healthcare applications has accelerated rapidly in the past few years.
But why make the move from conventional device materials to plastics? One reason is that high-performance engineering polymers are less expensive than medical-grade metals such as titanium. Engineering polymers have above-average chemical, thermal, and mechanical stability. They are also radiolucent, making implants made from these materials compatible with a range of imaging tools. Devices made from engineering polymers often show the lowest wear rate of any material. Examples of material innovations include self healing polymers for wound management, orthopaedic devices incorporating performance plastics, and broader polymer development focused on higher levels of chemical resistance for medical devices.
Not to be ignored is the explosive use of 3D printing in medical applications. Companies throughout the value chain, from suppliers to integrators to service providers, are actively pursuing the use of additive manufacturing and are making notable contributions in the development of medical devices through rapid prototyping or modeling. This has led to a shift where device manufacturers are developing their products; many manufacturers are now outsourcing their needs and collaborating with upstream channel partners to meet their objectives. The medical device outsourcing industry is a $10 billion market, growing faster than the traditional medical device market.
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