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Plastics for Medical Device Manufacturing

by Last updated Jun 30, 2023 | Published on Mar 4, 2022Industries

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

Axenics recommends plastics components for medical devices because plastics are versatile, clean, sturdy and affordable. Three services especially valuable to the medical device manufacturing field are:

  • Plastic manifold transportation systems
  • Plastic tube bending
  • Plastic pipe welding

Plastic manifold liquids and gas transportation systems

Plastic manifold transportation systems provide a continuous supply of chemicals for a variety of applications during the manufacturing process. These systems have a smaller footprint than other options due to built-in direct pathways, resulting in simple transport for liquids and gasses. The systems are versatile with the ability to expand using additional manifolds or transport lines. Manifold transportation systems also provide easy access for repairs – though repairs are uncommon for this type of system.

The manifolds Axenics produces for our customers are tested during each step of production to ensure a leak-tight performance. Fewer leak points also make manifolds a more-reliable transportation system for chemicals, liquids and gasses, as the risk of cross-contamination is lowered significantly.

Plastic manifold transportation systems are smaller than many other delivery systems with a lower part count, making them more affordable on the materials side. Plus, they generally have a faster production time than other delivery systems. One more plus is that the need for preventative maintenance is low for manifold delivery systems.

Manifolds can be used in the production of medical equipment including:

  • Lab accessories
  • Patient monitoring devices
  • Diagnostic instruments
  • Operational machinery 

Axenics works to provide a simplified, reliable system that delivers consistent, highly-repeatable performance, with the flexibility of subsystems that have the capability for multiple flow rates and pressures. Plastics can deliver those results, and some plastic options offer better insulation than metal manifolds.

Additional plastic manifold benefits

  • High thermal mechanical strength: Some plastics are able to resist thermal degradation and maintain operating strength and rigidity in high temperatures.
  • Good chemical resistance to acids, alkalis, greases and solvents, hydrogen peroxide, demineralised water and hot steam.
  • Minimal outgassing (gas release within solid material) under vacuum: This is especially important in the medical device industry as maintaining a sterile environment is essential.
  • Good creep resistance.
  • Minimal thermal expansion.
  • Good wear resistance.
  • Good plasma resistance for reduced corrosion.

Plastic tube bending

Axenics bends plastic tubing using a variety of thermoplastics to create piping kits and tubing assemblies. We do a lot of work with Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), a chemical-resistant plastic that is ideal for transporting potentially harmful liquids or gasses. Tube bending for delivery systems is also performed in-house on plastics such as:

  • Polypropylene (PP)
  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
  • Chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC)

We only use professionally cleaned and bagged raw tubing. Bending high-purity plastic tubes is a good option for production systems that transport corrosive liquids or volatile chemicals. Savvy manufacturers utilize plastic tubes for high-purity applications knowing there’s a smaller chance of contaminants getting into gas and liquid supplies versus some metal tubing systems. Metal tubes potentially suffer from flaking welds when high-pressure gas and liquids flow through them.

Axenics’ proprietary technique for plastic tube bending allows for a strong system free of kinks that works on plastic tubing from as thick as 2 inches down to 1/16th-inch. Through years of experimentation, Axenics’ technicians developed tube bending equipment and techniques with better performance than “standard tube bending.” These techniques and tooling options help achieve tighter tolerances and accomplish more modifications than conventional tooling and procedures typically allow. Custom tooling achieves the exact bend radius, angle and design required in a repeatable bending process. It’s also possible to bend any length of thermoplastic tubing.

Plastic tubing kits facilitate the movement of liquids and gasses from one area of a manufacturing system to another in one clean, clear shot. This expedites transport around components and other obstacles in a production system. End connections for tubing assemblies can simply mate with the connections already installed in an existing production space.

Additional plastic tube benefits

  • Bent plastic tubing holds up well against vibrations when placed into large machinery. Vibration fatigue and failure can be a problem with some moving mechanical systems and equipment.
  • The efficiency of plastic bending increases a manufacturer’s production capabilities without raising costs since there is less raw material required for plastic fabrication and fewer – if not zero – fittings required.
  • Precision bending on plastic tubing decreases the likelihood of potential leaks via welded joints.
  • Bent plastic tubes generally integrate into a manufacturer’s existing machinery without compromising the integrity of either the tubes or systems.

Plastic welding

One of the biggest challenges medical device manufacturers face is creating complex components with miniature segments through which liquids and gasses can easily pass. Plastic welding provides a solution for manufacturing those components with safety in mind, while also ensuring a longer lifespan of the product. Plastic welding is used to: 

  • Construct patient-monitoring devices
  • Produce diagnostic instruments 
  • Create components for machinery used in life-saving operations

Plastic welding is often a faster and simpler fabrication process versus welding with metals because plastics are generally lighter in weight than many metals. Plastics are also a wise choice for maintaining the safety and reliability of your end product as they are more chemically resistant than most metals.

The proprietary welding method Axenics employs is also highly repeatable, which is helpful as the demand for “more and faster” increases. Axenics’ method of welding plastics does not alter the chemical makeup of the piping and does not compromise the piping in any way. This remains an important distinction that attracts fabrication engineers, as the welded plastic piping kits provide a flawless and consistent transportation system of potentially dangerous and harmful chemicals and gasses.

Plastic piping kits provide a seamless transition when adding to existing chemical and liquid delivery systems. The kits ship with end connections that plug right into mating units on the customer’s end. Or, a series of piping systems can be mounted together for customers’ fluid line systems. PFA is a resilient and stable plastic and has the ability to withstand exposure to harsh chemicals. It’s a versatile plastic that seamlessly fits into many customers’ existing systems.

Additional plastic welding benefits

  • Plastic welds have a strong resistance to acids, alkalis, greases and solvents, hydrogen peroxide, demineralized water and hot steam.
  • Plastic welds offer a minimal release of gas under vacuum, which helps maintain a sterile environment.
  • Plastic welds have a strong plasma resistance reducing the possibility of corrosion.
  • Plastic welds resist thermal degradation and maintain a high operating strength and rigidity in high temperatures.
  • Plastic welds offer the benefits of good creep resistance, minimal thermal expansion and good wear resistance.
  • Plastic welding provides a simplified system that delivers a consistent, highly-repeatable performance. There is also the flexibility of easily adding thermoplastic sub-systems that provide multiple flow rates and pressures.

Cleanliness is also key

Axenics takes cleanliness extremely seriously. When creating components for use in the medical device industry, we utilize a cleanroom in order to keep any particles or contamination from ending up in your production. It only takes a miniscule piece of dust to severely damage a component. It’s like tossing a big, filthy wrench into the gears.

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