The case for metal replacement in medical devices


Lightweighting, cost reduction and user safety are among the reasons that plastics increasingly are becoming the material of choice for medical devices, reports Ann R. Thryft, Senior Technical Editor, Materials & Assembly, at sister brand DesignNews. She has just published a well-documented article on the continuing trend toward metal replacement and, interestingly, the development of metal/plastic hybrids in the medical technology space.

The plague of hospital-acquired infections made headlines again recently when it was revealed that a contaminated duodenoscope, a type of endoscope, used at the UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center exposed almost 200 patients to an antibiotic-resistant superbug and contributed to the death of two people. Back in March, PlasticsToday reported on a disposable plastic sheath that can be used with some endoscopes to prevent exposing patients to potentially contaminated instruments. In DesignNews, Thryft reports on a more sophisticated approach for improving device safety: Materials suppliers and medtech designers are investigating new instruments that are a hybrid of metals and plastics that take advantage of the design freedom afforded by plastics while optimizing the sterilizability of all device components.

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