Medical-grade polymers are a key component of the global healthcare ecosystem. Polymers are used in a range of devices, from surgical instruments to implants and catheters. The global medical polymers market is expected to exceed $24 billion by 2024.
Biocompatibility and durability are the basic properties of raw materials used in the manufacture of medical plastic products, and replacing metal is a continuous development trend in the medical field. Single-use devices are less likely to cause health-related infections than reusable devices, which need to be disinfected after each use. Plastic also provides ray transparency, weight reduction, and reduced stress shielding.
Here are some of the trends we anticipate in the field of medical polymers during the first half of this new decade.
3D printing will give way to 4D printing
3D printing is helping medical device manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies develop treatment-specific drugs and patient-specific implants, and giving surgeons new tools for planning procedures. The adoption of 4D printing technology is at a critical juncture because it enables the development of smart materials. The most advanced 4D printing products can reportedly change their color, shape and performance; Minimize production time and reduce post-processing requirements. Both 3D and 4D printing will enhance understanding of disease states and advance patient-specific design of surgical tools and implantable products.
Excerpt from The Application of Engineering Plastics
Bioabsorbable materials continue to receive attention
Forward-looking companies are expected to adopt bioabsorbable materials and expand applications in reinforcement nets, surgical sutures, and cardiovascular stents. Bioabsorbable polymers can speed up the healing process. The seemingly harmless breakdown of these polymers in the human body and their chemically neutral properties will determine the future direction of the medical polymer industry.
The demand for PVC will continue to grow
Despite concerns in some quarters about its potential impact on human health, demand for PVC will continue to grow in the coming years. The transparency of plasticized PVC enables continuous monitoring of fluid flow. Due to its cost effectiveness and unparalleled performance characteristics, PVC applications in medicine, surgical instruments and drug delivery have been warmly welcomed. The kind of plasticizer has 300 kinds, among them commercial use is up to 100 kinds. Phthalate plasticizers are used in many PVC-based products, including life-saving medical devices such as blood bags and medical tubes. Some studies have suggested that DEHP phthalates may leach out of medical devices made from soft PVC, although these findings are far from conclusive on the impact of phthalates on human health. But the perceived negative impact may slightly affect demand for PVC products. However, PVC will remain dominant due to its multiple advantages, and the material will play a considerable role in the increasing popularity of medical fibers and resins. In fact, it is estimated that the medical fiber and resin segment of the medical polymer market will grow at a cagR of over 8% through 2024.
PEEK will be widely used
Polyether ether ketone (PEEK) polymers are not affected by lipids or blood (most solvents and enzymes in the body) and have therefore been widely used in orthopedic implants, including plates and pins, bone screws, suture screws and tissue anchoring. PEEK is replacing metal as hip prostheses because the polymer is better suited to the flexibility of natural bone than titanium or steel.
Medical packaging demand continues to grow
Medical packaging is designed for continued growth as environmental packaging membranes are introduced into the supply chain to combat the harmful conditions faced by content and packaging, including humidity, heat and cold, microorganisms and contaminants, and water. Medical polymer films and barrier packaging protect products from the outside environment and protect them from vibration, stress, magnetic fields and compression. Polystyrene has the advantages of light weight, good stability, strong versatility, good insulation performance, low cost, and is a very popular material. Polystyrene foam (EPS) enhances reliability and prevents contamination. EPS is considered non-toxic as it is made up of 2% material and 98% air.
Continued R&D activity and innovation will inform the market outlook for medical polymer materials, with alternative metals continuing to be a driving force.