PITTSFIELD, Mass./ USA -- May 31, 2007
GE Plastics' broad portfolio of materials address the leading trends in powered medical devices. The company's resins and compounds for the healthcare industry have been engineered to meet device manufacturers' current and future requirements, which are being mandated by fundamental changes in care delivery. These changes include a greater reliance on home, remote, and wireless care; new and faster diagnostics, including self-monitoring; tougher use environments; and increasingly stringent regulations. To help manufacturers meet these needs, GE Plastics not only offers a full spectrum of materials solutions, but also provides an array of value-added services at its Customer Innovation Centers worldwide.
"Manufacturers of powered medical devices are being challenged daily as the dynamics of healthcare change -- and GE Plastics has solutions to meet those challenges," said Clare Frissora, market director, Healthcare, GE Plastics. "GE's high-performance plastics help improve the overall care experience, for example, by meeting the need for portable and ever-smaller devices that combine a range of functional capabilities coupled with beautiful appearance. We offer products to support the compliance needs of a variety of global environmental-related legislation and guidelines. In multiple ways, GE's advanced plastics enable our customers to design and manufacture market-leading devices."
Dispersion of People and Shared Use of Equipment Drive Portability and Miniaturization
A variety of healthcare trends are driving down the size of powered medical devices. With the increasing volume of patients due to population growth and aging, new technologies for self-monitoring and home care aim to ease requirements for in-hospital or in-clinic support. And information technology is enabling telemedicine and remote consultations both inside and outside hospital facilities. However, portability is also manifesting itself in another area: the use of shared equipment within a facility. Lightweight yet durable materials enable devices to be designed in smaller formats for easier transport to its users or for conservation of precious space. Miniaturization and portability affect all components of equipment, from housings and structural elements to internal components such as gears and latches.
GE Plastics provides many products to promote creative equipment design while reducing the size, weight, and unwieldiness of devices: thermoplastics such as the Lexan* EXL resin series for housings that replace heavier metals and thermosets; thinner wire coatings made from Flexible Noryl* resins to reduce weight and mass; materials such as LNP* Faradex* compounds that offer inherent electromagnetic interference/radio frequency interference (EMI/RFI) signal attenuation to replace secondary coating operations; and overall greater design flexibility to enable part consolidation.
Enhanced Hospital Environments and Home Use Devices Call for Improved Aesthetics
The influence of patients as consumers is radically affecting the design and appearance of devices for hospital and home use. To make the healthcare experience more pleasant for patients, there is currently a major effort to improve the clinical environment, including the appearance of medical equipment. From smaller patient monitors to larger diagnostic imaging equipment, improved design and aesthetics are becoming more prevalent. To achieve them, GE Plastics offers many different solutions.
Many customers have taken advantage of GE's Customer Innovation Centers, where experimenting with color goes well beyond the simple selection of a color shade to encompass custom hues and different effects. To achieve a special effect such as sparkle or iridescence, manufacturers can choose from GE's Visualfx* resins.
GE offers resins with molded-in color to eliminate painting operations or at-mold coloring, which may be susceptible to inconsistent color match. GE's conductive Noryl GTX* resin series enable powder coating, eliminating wet paint operations to enable metallic finish effects.
Tougher Use Conditions Demand More Durable Polymers
With the continued effort to limit hospital-acquired infections, cleaning, chemical disinfection, and sterilization remain key focus areas within the healthcare industry. Tougher use conditions include the rough handling and impact that equipment is subjected to during transport from one area to another. The increase in home care calls for portable equipment that can withstand day-to-day wear and tear -- not only impact resistance across a wider temperature range, but also scratch resistance and reduction of static charge build-up.
Many GE grades have been engineered for special capabilities such as to withstand impact, chemical exposure, scratching and marring, and temperature extremes can potentially enable continued performance and good appearance over extended periods. For example, GE's LNP Verton* compounds with long glass fiber reinforcement provide high strength and impact resistance for structural components. GE's Lexan* DMX resin grades offer improved scratch resistance compared to standard polycarbonate (PC) for parts such as transparent housings in diagnostic equipment, keyboards, and lenses, potentially eliminating secondary hard coat operations. And GE's Valox* resins provide exceptional resistance to cleansers and chemical agents.
Evolution of the Regulatory Landscape Requires Compliant Polymers
Manufacturers -- especially those marketing devices and equipment globally -- must comply with an ever-growing array of regulations covering electrical, environmental, and fire safety as well as biocompatibility. To help manufacturers meet compliance requirements, GE Plastics offers an array of materials to respond to the tests outlined in UL746C for polymeric materials used in electrical equipment evaluations. Additionally, GE has developed a range of solutions for environmentally progressive flame-retardant materials that conform to regulations such as the European Union's Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive or help manufacturers meet the recycling objectives of Waste of Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE). Flexible Noryl* resins for wire coating meet the requirements of halogen-free parts and international standards for recyclability. Non-brominated, non-chlorinated flame-retardant (FR) materials, some of which are able to meet UL94 V0 FR ratings as low as 0.75mm, are also offered from grades within the LNP* Starflam* resins, LNP Faradex specialty compounds, and Ultem*, Noryl*, Noryl GTX*, Cycoloy*, and Lexan resins.
When biocompatibility of devices is required, GE Plastics offers a special portfolio of biocompatible1 materials. These select materials are made available from nearly every product family within GE's resins offering and include, but are not limited to: Lexan HPX copolymer PC resins that additionally offer enhanced flow, release, and autoclave performance (at 121 C); Noryl HNA resin grades that offer repeated autoclave performance at 134 C; and Xylex* HX PC/polyester resin series that offer enhanced chemical resistance for transparent applications.
Cost Management Remains a Critical Component of Successful Healthcare Delivery
More than ever, the healthcare industry is demanding higher performance at affordable costs. This requires manufacturers to explore all options for cost management throughout manufacturing, shipping, and product warranty, without sacrificing performance. GE Plastics' technological expertise for design and processing optimization can help manufacturers meet their total system cost objectives. In addition, GE's materials help eliminate time-consuming and expensive secondary operations through such capabilities as molded-in color and innovations such as inherent conductivity, shielding, and lubricity properties. Alternative processing such as blow molding, structural foam, and thermoforming can further reduce costs. An example is the use of thermoforming to replace reactive injection molding (RIM) and fiber reinforced plastic (FRP) alternatives, enabling lower costs while conforming to WEEE and RoHS. GE's Cycoloy PC/acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) CM6210 resin is an example of a thermoformable, flame retardant material option.
For more information on GE Plastics' high performance materials for medical devices, please visit GE's website at http://www.geplastics.com/gep/en/IndustryApplications/IndustryDetail/healthcare.html .
* Lexan, Flexible Noryl, LNP, Faradex, Visualfx, Noryl, Verton, Valox, Starflam, Ultem, Cycoloy, and Xylex are trademarks of General Electric Company.
1 Biocompatibility: A representative lot of material tested either by ISO 10993 or USP VI protocol. Test data available via Type I or Type II letter. Type I Letter: Issued for products that have been specifically tested for biocompatibility. Type II Letter: Issued when specific product has not been tested but similar products have been tested for biocompatibility.