Although replacing metals with plastics in the medical device space has been a hot topic in the business-to-business media for some time, the switch has yet to be made in countless applications. "The healthcare sector, relatively speaking, has been a fairly late adopter," says Dane Waund, Global Market Manager, Healthcare, Solvay Specialty Polymers (Alpharetta, GA). The company came to the Medical Design & Manufacturing East event in New York City this week to, well, start spreading the news, especially among manufacturers who are used to working with metals. Solvay Specialty Polymers has published a case study that focuses on single-use and reusable surgical retractors made, respectively, from Ixef polyarylamide (PARA) and AvaSpire polyaryletherketone (PAEK). It is showing samples of the devices at booth 1271.
"Our goal with this project is to show medical device OEMs ways in which high-performance polymers can replace metals in especially challenging applications," says Waund. "The retractor is not an obvious choice," he adds, for a number of reasons. For instance, it is subjected to high mechanical loads, and the reusable version must be able to withstand up to 1000 steam sterilization cycles.
The reusable retractor is made from PAEK, which provides a high stiffness-to-weight ratio, hydrolytic stability at elevated temperatures, and chemical resistance.