Polymers in healthcare – the advert that plastics deserves!
by Adrian Lunney
Most of us in the plastics industry can be forgiven for getting comfortable with the day-to-day repetitive and fast cycling nature of the injection molding process. Industry practitioners will spend many days shaving milliseconds from cycle times and ensuring that 24/7 factory production achieves a faultless manufacturing of millions of parts per week. These are typical numbers and scenarios and many of us spend our working lives inside of these statistics. To many outside this world, however, these facts – and the performance of a fast cycling machine – are nothing short of miraculous. I saw this for myself at the COMPAMED 2019 exhibition in Düsseldorf, November 18–21, taking up a position near to where the WITTMANN BATTENFELD MicroPower (fitted for cleanroom production) was producing medical parts. I lost count of the number of COMPAMED show visitors who were literally stopped in their tracks by this exhibit and who then also engaged the booth in conversation. As the WITTMANN Group booth personnel explained to me this “head turning” exhibit was serving as an excellent device for raising customer awareness and for attracting new business. It also seemed to me that this demonstration of micro medical molding was also serving a valuable purpose as an advertisement for the value of plastics processing generally. Medical science advances by leaps and bounds with every annual MEDICA and COMPAMED show. Few would argue that the continuing innovation in life-saving devices and improved personal care was something not to be welcomed by the world. Few could therefore challenge the enabling role of polymer processing in that regard. No protests here. And what a contrast this performance makes to other end-use sectors for plastics today! In a few months time, for example, the same Düsseldorf Messe will play host to the world of packaging in the form of the triennial show interpack, May 7–13. My guess is that – thanks to social pressure and to post-use abuses and excesses – the lights in the plastics packaging technology showcase will be very much dimmed for 2020. Right or wrong, this is the way of the world. But for now at least, medical plastics still values the contribution and the functionality of many polymer based innovations. Long may this continue.