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GE Advanced Materials expands capabilities in healthcare

GE Advanced Materials : 01 July, 2004  (Technical Article)
As a global leader in thermoplastic and silicone materials, GE Advanced Materials offers an expanding portfolio of healthcare materials for diverse industry segments.

The global healthcare industry demands continual technical innovations in materials to keep pace with advancing healthcare technologies and to support the growing shift from hospital-based care to outpatient and home care. To meet demand, manufacturers of healthcare devices, therapies, and pharmaceuticals must rely on materials suppliers that can develop and deliver a steady pipeline of innovative, high-performance products.

As a global leader in thermoplastic and silicone materials, GE Advanced Materials offers an expanding portfolio of healthcare materials for diverse industry segments. These include liquid silicone elastomers to help speed production and enable minute and precise part fabrication; to Lexan polycarbonate (PC) resins, offering lipid resistance and gamma-radiation stabilization; to high-heat resistant Ultem resins for autoclaved precision parts and trays.

Screening and monitoring measures in preventative care are growing. The integration of monitoring and imaging are driving new equipment designs. As a result, wireless and related technologies used for accessing information are requiring medical devices with improved shielding from electromagnetic and radio frequency interference (EMI/RFI), which can be obtained using GE’s LNP Stat-Kon and Faradex lines of electrostatic dissipating and shielding compounds.

The call for more portable screening devices – used between care facilities and at-home follow-up – is driving greater component miniaturization, along with lighter weight and more ergonomic designs. Here, GE Advanced Materials’ Cycoloy, Noryl, and Lexan resins can provide durability and impact strength in a range of monitoring and imaging equipment such as heart monitors, CT scanners, MRI and ultrasound imaging, and digital X-ray printers. The company’s silicone products – including LIM/LSR and Tufel II – are being used for keypads on these devices.

Healthcare device manufacturers are also developing new products to keep pace with conditions like osteoporosis, diabetes, and obstructive sleep apnoea. For this segment, GE’s Cycoloy and Lexan EXL resins are being used in equipment such as bone densitometers and blood glucose meters. Sleep apnoea devices also incorporate Lexan and Cycoloy resins, as well as LIM/LSR and Tufel II silicones.

Screening and monitoring equipment can also benefit from the flame retardancy and chemical resistance that GE’s family of healthcare materials can help provide. As home use of these devices grows, aesthetics – especially colour and design – are becoming more important. GE Advanced Materials can help customers address this need with an array of Visualfx special-effect resins. The company also has colour innovation centres in the United States, Europe, and Asia to help manufacturers develop products with eye-catching consumer appeal. Custom colour services are even offered for GE Advanced Materials’ liquid silicone product portfolio.

Diagnostic devices are as diverse as screening and monitoring devices and are also requiring the high-performance properties that plastics and silicones can provide. Here, GE Advanced Materials offers Ultem resin for the intricate internal components of pipettes; Valox films for diagnostic test strips; and Lexan and Ultem resins for clinical bottles and centrifuge containers.

For large diagnostic equipment where durability and light weight are increasingly important, the company offers its foamed Noryl resins. GE’s silicone products are also finding wide application in diagnostics, from custom, high-consistency elastomers (HCE) for use in blood culture devices to moulded liquid silicone rubber (LSR) for laboratory septa.

As new surgical techniques proliferate, there is increasing demand for minimally invasive surgical (MIS) instruments. For this segment, GE Advanced Materials offers a range of products for multifunctional instruments that facilitate ergonomics and ease of use. For example, LNP Lubricomp compounds are excellent candidates for applications where lubrication and wear resistance are required. The company’s LNP Thermocomp compounds are known for their inherent toughness. Both GE materials may be suited for a variety of complex moving parts in endoscopic and other MIS devices. Further, GE’s specialty compounding capabilities enable radio-opaque components, such as tips for surgical clamps and scissors.

Other GE Advanced Materials products are used in a wider range of surgical instruments. Lexan and Ultem resins are finding increased use in injection devices, tissue stabilisers, and gear housings for surgical instruments. Lubricomp and Thermocomp plastic compounds can be good choices for trocars, retractors, staplers, and electrocautery devices that require wear resistance, lubrication, or high modulus and strength.

On the silicones front, self-bonding LIM for soft-touch grips and new LSR Top Coat silicone coating offer reduced coefficient of friction (COF) in catheters. LIM silicones also offer excellent biocompatibility and may be suited for the rapid production of large quantities of very precise, small parts such as O-rings and mechanical diaphragms. These GE products can retain elastomeric properties, even after repeated sterilizations, compared to most traditional product offerings. Barium sulphate, a radio-opaque material, may be added to silicones to enable imaging of X-rays and to help healthcare providers ensure that devices are removed during surgical procedures.

Cardiac surgery devices also demand extremely specialized properties, such as blood oxygenators that are clear, biocompatible, and impact resistant – properties that Lexan resin can provide. During and after surgery, devices and components for drug and nutritional delivery such as luers, Y-sites, stopcocks, and infusion pumps can benefit from the use of Lexan, Xylex, and Noryl resins, which can give clarity and lipid and chemical resistance to these devices, as well as the durability needed for pump housings.

GE’s Tufel II silicone is widely used for pump tubing, and its LSR line is used for needleless valves. GE Advanced Materials also offers solutions for sterilization trays, including translucent and opaque options. Ultem resin, for example, can offer the autoclave performance and translucency required of repeat-sterilization trays – from dental to surgical – making it an excellent alternative to more expensive products.

Ongoing treatment of chronic conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and renal dialysis treatment are examples of other areas in which GE Advanced Materials can provide solutions. Automated external defibrillators (AEDs), growing in use to aid patients suffering from cardiac arrest, are supported by GE’s Cycoloy resins, which impart durability and colourability for quick identification.

Other health maintenance applications using GE’s range of materials include:

• Blood collection and separation devices made with LEXAN resin for impact resistance, clarity, and sterilization;

• Renal dialysers, bag caps, transfer sets, and seals utilizing GE’s silicones materials;

• Liquid silicone rubber, used for external prosthetics and scar therapy; and

• Thermoplastic nebulisers, oxygen-support devices (ventilators, concentrators), and respiratory masks.

Beyond direct clinical care needs, GE Advanced Materials supports the healthcare industry in a number of areas:

• For the pharmaceutical segment, the company offers silicones for tubing, suitable for pharmaceutical processing, and disposable and sterilisable manufacturing components made with ULTEM resin.

• For electronics and motors, a range of thermally conductive GE thermoplastics can offer enhanced performance benefits to coil bobbins and can extend battery life in powered instruments.

• For devices and components to help address cleanliness concerns, GE’s antistatic materials can reduce dust accumulation.

• For electronic devices, high-stiffness thermoplastics are available that can offer improved performance benefits, lighter weight, and reduced costs vs. machined metal parts.

• For a range of applications where the filling of precise geometries is required, the company offers a range of high-performance resins with higher melt-flow indices and excellent mouldability.
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