In recent years, the development of TPE materials around the world has shown a rapid upward trend. More and more medical device manufacturers tend to choose thermoplastic elastomer TPE materials in production for products that require flexibility or rubber elasticity. The application of TPE materials in the medical industry has become a bright spot in its application.
Medical TPE material has become alternative material for thermosetting rubber and PVC, and is widely used in medical equipment such as pipes, medical bags, plugs, gaskets, and sealing bags.
The versatility of TPE is one of the reasons why it is applied in the medical industry. Currently available TPE materials in the market can meet many requirements of the final use, and for any specific application category, TPE material suppliers can provide two or more chemically different types of TPE.
The characteristic selection range of TPE is wide, and the hardness can range from super soft or gelatinous to semi-rigid materials; optical properties can range from transparent to opaque. TPE products have different grades to meet the requirements of strength, low-temperature toughness, thermal stability, chemical resistance, and UV resistance. In addition, there are many ways to process TPE, such as injection or blow molding, multi-material embedded molding, extrusion, or co-extrusion, to produce films, sheets, profiles, or pipes, etc.
The chemical inertness or “clean” component of TPE is also an ideal choice for medical applications. Medical TPE is made of raw materials that conform to FDA standards and does not contain phthalates and latex proteins. In addition, TPE materials themselves do not contain extractables or leachables, even when in contact with water-based systems (such as liquids).
Gradually abandoning the use of PVC in the medical device industry is mainly due to the fact that they generally contain phthalate plasticizers, which can produce dioxins and other substances harmful to human and environment during incineration. Although there are now PVC compounds without phthalate plasticizers available for the medical industry, the life cycle of PVC itself is still a problem, making manufacturers more willing to choose other alternative materials.
The problem with latex is that users may have protein allergies, as well as industry concerns about the content of solidifiable and leachable substances and odor of latex itself. Another factor is economics: processing rubber is more labor-intensive than processing TPE, and medical TPE product waste can be recycled.
Many products that use silicone rubber do not require its high heat resistance or low compression deformation at high temperatures. Organosilicones certainly have their advantages, including the ability to withstand multiple sterilization cycles, but for some products, TPE is a more cost-effective substitute. In many cases, they offer improvements over organosilicones. Typical applications where medical TPE can replace silicone resin include drainage pipes, bags, pump tubes, face mask gaskets, seals, etc.