The medical plastics market is growing in popularity and production year over year. With the recent rise of COVID-19, these materials and markets have been instrumental in helping people around the world to create personal protection equipment (PPE). Before the pandemic, this market was growing substantially on its own. It continues to be a dominant force in medical device manufacturing.

What are medical plastics?

These plastics are polymers made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polypropylene (PP), polyethylene (PE), and polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polyimide (PA), polycarbonate (PC), acrylonitrile butadiene (ABS), poly-etheretherketone (PEEK) and polyurethane (PU) and silicone (Si). Each of these types of specialty plastics have one or several specific functions including: temperature resistance, chemical resistance, corrosion resistance, and anti-bacterial, anti-viral, or anti-fungal properties.

These materials have a unique role in highly specific applications based on their core function and usage. Their applications include surgical procedures and have specific applications for saving lives, improving functionality and life conditions, and protecting people from disease, infection, and sometimes death.

PVC is the most widely used material because it has a wide variety of applications and properties. The main use is for pre-sterilized single use medical applications including medical catheters. It is a versatile plastic that has been used in medical applications for over 60 years.

Medical plastics materials are broken down into several types of functions, including: diagnostic, surgical, disposable, and protective. The different types of plastics have different applications and functions depending on their end use. Some can be interchangeable while others have unique specialty applications based on their chemical makeup or physical form.

There are many ways to manufacture these specialty materials including: extrusion, co-extrusion, injection molding, sheeting, and thermoset production. Again, the type of manufacturing is often linked to the applications and function of their end use. Each has properties that make it beneficial to their production method.

If we look at the different types of medical device plastics in the markets today, we see several categories. These include:

  • Surgical and medical device instruments: Includes anesthesia apparatuses, orthopedic instruments, optical diagnostic apparatuses, blood transfusion devices, syringes, hypodermic needles, and catheters.
  • Surgical devices and appliances: artificial joints and limbs, stents, orthopedic appliances, surgical dressings, disposable surgical drapes, hydrotherapy appliances, surgical kits, rubber medical and surgical gloves, and wheelchairs.
  • Electro-medical equipment: a variety of powered devices, such as pacemakers, patient-monitoring systems, MRI machines, diagnostic imaging equipment (including informatics equipment), and ultrasonic scanning devices.
  • 3D Printing applications: prosthetic hands, feet, and limbs, 3d reproductions of mechanical body parts, surgical instrumentation, and implants.
  • Irradiation apparatuses: X-ray devices and other diagnostic imaging, as well as computed tomography equipment.
  • Dental equipment and supplies: equipment, instruments, and supplies used by dentists, dental hygienists, and laboratories. Specific products include dental hand instruments, plaster, drills, amalgams, cements, sterilizers, and dental chairs.

The Future of Medical Plastics

These applications are growing each year with the advent of new research, technologies, materials,
processes, and applications.

The medical plastics industry global market cap is growing rapidly each year as well. As of today in 2020, the market is worth roughly 25.1 billion dollars and by 2021 it is estimated to be worth approximately $29.5 billion. That is a compounded annual growth rate of approximately 17% in one year. Many reports show the market cap reaching $33.5 billion by 2025 which would represent a 33% increase in growth.

Although these numbers are estimates, it is clear that medical device plastic manufacturing markets are continuing to grow at a rapid rate each year. With new technologies, research, and applications coming out almost weekly, there is a lot of optimism and opportunity to grow in this market now and in the future.

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