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In these past several decades serving our customers, we’ve developed processes with most all thermo-plastic polymers used in the catheter industry. Read below for an evaluation of some of them. Then, give us a call when you’re working on a new product and we can discuss how different materials might perform in your application. ↓
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High Performance Polymers
Over the years we have seen a lot of interest in tipping PTFE. Its hydrophobic and biocompatibility properties combined with its internal lubricity make it ideal for many medical device applications. Although PTFE is a thermoplastic, processing is often made difficult due to its high melt temperature of 327 °C (621 °F). Though our machines have no trouble reaching such high temperatures (they can heat treat steel if you didn’t know), PTFE begins to decompose around 200 °C (392 °F), and rather than flowing nicely it behaves like a gel and can be stubborn to process.
A nice alternative to PTFE is the copolymer FEP, which exhibits many of the desirable properties of PTFE but is more friendly in terms of processability.
Another high melt temp, high strength material that is seeing increased usage in medical applications is PEEK. Its biocompatibility and resistance to buckling make it an appealing option. PEEK’s melt temperature is around 343 °C (662 °F) so it does require some special consideration for forming. High power output and precision control of the heat profile across a forming die are essential to successful formation of PEEK.
Polyimide has the advantages of chemical and kink resistance. It is often used where small, thin-walled catheters are required such as neural applications. Though it is technically a thermoset material, it can be made to conform to non-aggressive die geometry.
We often receive inquiries about thermoforming silicone. Though silicone exhibits many properties that are desirable in catheter applications, such as biocompatibility, chemical stability, flexibility and resistance to compression set – it is a thermoset material and cannot be thermoformed in the least. As an alternative, some copolymers now exist that exhibit the desirable properties of silicone but processability more similar to urethane.
If you are developing a new medical device or wanting to improve a current one by switching to a higher performance material, we recommend that you send us an email or give us a call to discuss and review your project. We have the experience to point you in the right direction.
Our development team is available to discuss your project – email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 435-628-1775.