Ever since the first fully synthetic plastic was developed in 1907, it has become one of the most widely used materials. Plastic is often the go-to choice when developing products and that hasn’t changed. From a simple toothbrush to a disposable needle, plastic has taken over most of our daily day-to-day products.
While it has a great impact on the product industry in general, perhaps its greatest impact was in the healthcare industry. Just like every other industry, the healthcare industry also requires machinery, equipment, and products. Just as a jam industry might require jar packing machines and a control valve manufacturer might require molds, the medical industry also requires needles, syringes, and various other equipment. The question is: what is the best material to use in producing that equipment?
Ever since plastic was introduced in the medical industry, it has become a game-changer for most medical devices. Not only that but it has made developing many of these devices more cost-effective and safer. Some of the ways it has done so are:
1. One-time Use Equipment
Plastic might be used for many medical devices but is most commonly used for medical equipment meant to only be used once. Such equipment can include surgical gloves, syringes, IV tubes, or insulin pens. This is so that they can be thrown after only being used once to decrease the risk of infections or bacteria.
One-time use equipment also helps in improving the sterility and cleanliness of the medical procedures. Recently, plastic has also started to be used in creating antimicrobial touch surfaces. These surfaces can necessarily repel germs and other bacteria which helps in maintaining sterility. These measures are needed in the healthcare industry to reduce the spread of dangerous diseases.
3. The Economical Choice
Since plastic is lightweight, it is easier and cheaper to store. They are also immune to erosions and other similar chemical reactions unlike materials such as metal. Over time, more types of plastics have been developed that have significant durability.
Plastic resins are also less expensive than metals as they are often produced at a lower cost than metal parts. Overall, plastics are not only economical but also offer equal benefits in the healthcare industry.
4. Better safety
The flexible nature of plastics allows plastic medical device manufacturers to develop better medical safety devices. This can include tamper-proof caps, disposal bags, or even blister packs. Plastic plays a big role in medical injection molding services and rightfully so.
It can also be used as a protective layer or coating for other hazardous materials. Perhaps this is why plastic is often used to create a protective coating of materials such as medical waste while transportation. As plastics are shatterproof, it offers more safety in case of an accident.
5. Better Ergonomics
Medical equipment is developed keeping in mind not only the people on which it will be used but also the staff that will be using them. Many medical procedures are critical and have to be precise and intricate. Hence it is preferred that the equipment being used by the doctors are lightweight to make it easier for the doctors.
Since plastic is relatively lighter than metal, plastic medical devices’ weight is kept to a minimum. This results in more precise procedures as it increases the comfort level of the tools and minimizes fatigue that the medical staff might feel during surgeries.
As a material, it is much more user-friendly while offering a range of colors, textures, and surface finishes.
6. Longer Life Span
As mentioned before, plastic is more durable than metal. Metals are easily prone to chemical reactions and weather conditions. In comparison, plastic can easily withstand both. They are highly resistant to weather, chemical, environmental, and physical attacks. Hence they often end up being the more reliable choice.
7. Environmentally Friendly
Due to the nature of the medical industry, most of them regularly used equipment is one-time use only. Meaning many medical devices are thrown out daily. Keeping this in mind, plastic is the most reusable material in comparison to others. It can be melted and reused multiple times. This not only makes it an economical choice but also a more environmentally-friendly choice.
Companies have determined that single-use medical devices have a low carbon footprint and can help hospitals in reaching a net-zero CO2 equivalent annual emissions when compared to hospitals that employ traditional metal instruments. Metal, once used, has to be discarded permanently.
Plastic, as a material, still sparks a debate in many product industries. The world questions whether it truly is an environmentally friendly choice or will it always leave a permanent mark on the environment. While that might be true for some plastic products, there is no doubt that it is the most economical and ecological for the healthcare industry.