Tag Archives: UHMW

Engineering Plastics use Grows in Food Processing Equipment

iStock_000014977093LargeEngineering Plastics continue to replace metals as key components in food processing equipment. Plastics are often lighter and able to outlast traditional metal parts. A quick look through the variety of plastics available in today’s market shows an increasing number of engineering plastics that are compliant to FDA, USDA, 3A Dairy standards making them available in applications where they will come into direct contact with food. They are also being chosen for their
ability to create a quieter work environment.

With 2014 looking to be a great year for Food Processing equipment sales I wanted to share what we most find in food processing applications and why.

UHMW continues to lead the way (by pounds sold in the United States) in the transformation from metal to plastic parts.  For more information on materials sold in the U.S. see this article by the American Chemical Council. Compared to steel UHMW is just 1/7th the weight. In addition UHMW is corrosion resistant. UHMW is a great option for room temperature applications like guides, paddles, and cutting surfaces.  Recent advances include the introduction of metal detectable versions that can be recognized by your detection systems in line.

For bearing and wear applications, Nylon materials have been the workhorse for over 30 years.  Like UHMW, Nylon is also light weight, and provides lubrication – free operation making it a great material for producing bearings or bushings.  Gears and sprockets made of Nylon have been popular because they can reduce noise in work areas. They can also improve the efficiency of production lines conveying food and liquids in your plants by lasting longer than metals, which reduces downtime, and by allowing lines to run faster.

For many components, Acetal is the best choice for metal replacement, and we find its popularity is growing quickly in the food processing industry.  Acetal (Delrin Homopolymer or CoPolymer brands like Acetron GP and Celcon) are very easy to machine, and their very low moisture absorption rates make them a good choice for the often wet environment of food processing.  Acetals are harder than Nylons and maintain dimensional stability where Nylons tend to be more flexible. In many applications Acetals can handle continuous use temperatures up to 210° F and they are typically compatible with most cleaning solutions, a huge plus in the food processing industry.

A popular speciality material is Quadrant Engineering Plastics Ertalyte material.  Ertalyte has unique properties that allow it to wear like Acetal in wet environments and like Nylon in dry or unlubricated environments.  I like to think of it as giving you the best of both worlds! Ertalyte also is highly resistant to stains generated by things like tomato based sauces and green vegetables.  Ertalyte also has high dimensional stability that meets the demands of the highly precise machining tolerances required in filling pistons and fluid manifolds.

In looking to the future of food processing the demands are heavy. Companies are working hard to keep consumer prices in line while still making a profit. Food processing companies are achieving these goals by improving efficiency and creating better work environments. Plastics are an increasingly big part of the solution because their use in parts can improve line speeds, decrease maintenance downtime, and even make for a quieter work environment.

As I look at the Engineering Plastics and High Performance Materials we have here at AIN Plastics I’m pleased to see how they are being used to improve the food processing industry and I’m excited to see the new applications our customers are working on as well as the new materials our suppliers are always working on. If you have an application you’ve been scratching your head over, give us a call. We know there are lots of options and we can help you take some of the guess work out of finding out if Engineering Plastics are right for your application.

Paul Hanson

Sales and Marketing Manager
DuPont Vespel®
ThyssenKrupp Materials NA
AIN Plastics Division

email: paul.hanson@thyssenkrupp.com

For more information on Engineering Plastics visit http://www.tkmna.com/tkmna/Products/Plastics/Engineering/index.html

Plastics for Medical Device Applications, Where’s the Innovation?

I began working with Orthopedic medical device manufacturers in the late 90’s .  Back then we had the typical materials for the Orthopedic industry. Those included PPSU, PEI, PP, PE, POM-C and of course UHMW. The applications utilizing these materials were all pretty much the same: provisional trials for knees hips and shoulders, instrumentation handles, impactors, bearings and implants amongst other applications. In many industries we hear about new materials being developed on a regular basis, but in medical it almost seems time is standing still. Where’s the innovation for medical device applications?

Polymer Technologies for Medical Remain Virtually Unchanged

Not a lot has changed over the years on the Polymer side to really catapult plastics into a place up there with the Ti Eli’s and CoCr of their alloy counterparts.  Sure, we’ve seen a nice niche’ for Heat Stabilized Polypropylene used in Surgical Caddies and some filled materials primarily BaSO4 used in PPSU and PEI, so they are radio opaque and are visible under X-Ray. We’ve also seen some of the carbon fiber composites with a PAEK base adopted in a variety of roles from targeting guides to external fixation devices.

Let’s not forget about PEEK either, which has played a significant role in medical devices for the past 15 years.  Unfortunately the majority of the applications for that material are for implants.  Although there have been a variety of other applications using PEEK that are not of the implantable variety,  utilizing PEEK that is approved for 24 hour direct contact with the body has only begun to flourish over the last few years.  PEEK Classix which is approved for human implant up to 30 days has also seen a dramatic rise in popularity not only in Orthopedic, Spine and Trauma applications but dental applications as well.  But Implant Grade PEEK per ASTM  F2026 has really been the most popular of all of the medically approved PEEK variations with spinal cages being far and away the biggest reason for that.

The current state of medical plastics innovations leads to many questions. When is the next generation of FDA approved (Cl. VI/ ISO:10993) polymers going to debut? What will those breakthrough materials be?

Why has it been so long since we have seen innovations in polymer materials for medical use?
– Is it because of the fear of the liability risk?
– Is all the requisite testing that is involved in bringing that kind of innovative polymer to market holding up efforts?
– Have scientists not yet developed a material  that can compete in price and performance to a PEEK or PPSU?
– Will the next generation of polymer be a quantum leap supplanting current materials that have been mainstays in the market like a PPSU?
– Will it offer not only compressive and tensile strengths to compete with our alloy counterparts but the elastic modulus and lightweight performance that the market demands?  I for one, am hopeful that will be the case.

On Another Related Note, Let’s Talk About how the FDA may Be Impacting the Development of Materials for Medical Applications

In July/August of 2012 the FDA submitted new guidance for “Acceptance and Filing Reviews of Pre-Market Approval (PMA) Acceptance” for Medical Devices and in Dec 2012 / January2013 this new guidance was implemented.  With the new guidance the FDA has put greater emphasis on qualifying that all materials are safe and effective in the way they are used in the application. Plastics being a major component used in many surgical procedures are now required to be fully qualified where they may not have been in the past.   Some of the main concerns of plastics being used is not necessarily what the chemical composition or molecular chain is, but rather, what exactly is in them?  We know that PPSU is used in medical procedures and can have direct body contact of bone, blood and tissue .  The real question beyond that is what makes that material blue, brown or green?
– Are the compounds that turn that naturally amber PPSU blue,  safe and effective?
– Does that material meet the FDA requirements for percentages by weight and have those specific compounds and percentages been tested to show they are safe for the general public?
The onus of proving these things out  does not fall in the laps of the FDA it falls in the laps of the device manufacturers, the material suppliers, the shapes producers and the resin manufacturers.   The device market has good reason to be concerned as well.  They want to ensure they are putting out safe, reliable and effective products.  The last thing they need is a product recall or worse a class action lawsuit. We know that plastics provide many benefits including lighter weight, wear resistance, chemical resistance and more and as I see developments in other industries I look toward the future of new plastics for medical devices with great hope and I hope you will too.

Dave Piperi

Sales and Marketing Manager
Medical Materials
ThyssenKruppMaterials NA
AIN Plastics Division

To learn more about AIN Plastics and our materials for medical applications please visit our website or contact our Medical Technologies Group toll free: 877.770.6337.

email: david.piperi@thyssenkrupp.com