According to Travis Sessions, founder and CEO of Biomerics, “Medical polymers create the foundation for every device. Processes, prototypes, and parts can’t be developed and optimized until the right material has been selected.”
Due to the importance materials play in the development and manufacturing of medical devices and products, we’ve decided to leverage our material science knowledge and expertise to answer common questions we receive regarding medical polymers, custom compounding, and material selection.
What is a polymer?
Nat Fredin, PhD chemical engineer and Director of Material R&D for Biomerics, describes a polymer as, “A long chain of repeating units linked together. In Greek, ‘poly’ means ‘many’ and ‘mer’ means ‘part’.
“Polymers are all around us. Plastics, adhesives, and the synthetic fibers that make our clothes are made out of polymers. Even the DNA and proteins within your body are polymers that form naturally.”
How do medical polymers differ from other polymers?
Materials that are biocompatible, biostable, biodurable, and implantable are often referred to as ‘medical polymers’. Medical polymers differ from non-medical polymers in that they are better tolerated by the body.
When asked about the difference between medical polymers and non-medical polymers, Nat responded, “Sometimes the molecules themselves are naturally different from the molecules within non-medical polymers, but much of the time the difference is attributable to the biocompatibility of any additives or fillers incorporated into the medical polymer matrix.
“For instance, polyurethane is naturally tolerated by the body better than other elastomers. However, the addition of special components makes it even more compatible and stable within the body. Take our Quadrasil™ line as an example. Quadrasil™ is a family of thermoplastic silicone polyurethane co-polymers—it’s a blend of silicone and thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPUs). The combination of these two materials allows us to create a co-polymer that exhibits the physical and mechanical performance of TPUs and the biological stability of silicone.”
What does ‘custom compounding’ mean?
Custom compounding is used to incorporate additives such as radiopacifiers, colorants, pharmaceutical compounds, and UV stabilizers into existing polymers.
According to Nat, “At Biomerics, we do quite a bit of custom compounding. People often want to add custom compounds to our Quadra™ line of materials so that the polymers meet the exact needs of their device. Whether they want to add color to differentiate their brand and product, or radiopacifiers so that their devices are visible under fluoroscopy, we can help.”
Why is correct material selection so important?
The foundation for any medical device is the material used to make it. According to Dan Brittingham, VP of Engineering for Biomerics, “Design intent must first be determined; material selection is then conducted to support the end use application.”
The type of material used in manufacturing will determine a part’s physical properties (i.e. dimensional stability, strength, clarity, chemical resistance, biocompatibility, biostability, etc.), molding process (i.e. shrinkrate, cycle time, process conditions, etc.), and tool design (i.e. cooling, draft angles, materials, etc.).
What medical polymer solutions does Biomerics offer?
At Biomerics, material science and medical polymers are at the heart of our business. Leading medical device companies partner with us for our ability to deliver specialty compounds and formulations in an efficient and high quality manner. Our Quadra™ family of proprietary TPUs are utilized by device companies due to their consistency, mechanical properties, and biocompatibility and stability. Along with our Quadra™ line and custom compounding abilities, we offer polymerization, synthesis, material development, and material testing solutions. Our engineers and chemists will work with you to select the ideal material for your device or component based on application requirements such as design inputs, regulatory requirements, and cost objectives.
To learn more, send us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org), give us a call (801-355-2705), or visit the Medical Polymers section of our website.