What Are Medical Medical Thermoplastic Composites

Advanced thermoplastic composites offer a wide range of benefits in the medical industry. By combining the inherent strength properties of continuous fibers together with the durability and lightweight of thermoplastic polymers, advanced thermoplastic composites improve part performance, user experience, and quality of life.

Benefits of Thermoplastic Composites in Medical Devices

The benefits of using thermoplastic composites for medical devices include:

  • X-Ray Transparent. Carbon fiber composites are radiolucent, allowing penetration of x-rays through their structure, resulting in sharper and more accurate images.
  • Durable. Compared to thermoset composites, thermoplastic composites are exceptionally tough and durable, resulting in increased part life and service reliability.
  • Vibration Dampening. Thermoplastic composites improve user experience and comfort by maintaining stiffness and form while dampening vibrations.
  • Lightweight. Thermoplastic composites have an excellent strength-to-weight ratio, thereby increasing ease of transportation, self-propulsion, and user comfort.

Examples of Thermoplastic Composites in Medical Devices

Medical thermoplastics can be used for devices, equipment, and implants and are generally biocompatible and safe for use around and inside patients. Some common examples of medical thermoplastics include:

Polycarbonate (PC)

Polycarbonates are used in many products and devices. Consumer goods from pens to luggage to eye protection are made with polycarbonates. It is strong, impact-resistant, and durable for applications that must withstand wear and tear. In medical applications, it can be used for surgical tools, respiratory therapy devices, drug delivery equipment, prosthetics, and some orthotics.

Polyether Ether Ketone (PEEK)

PEEK materials are biocompatible and can be sterilized for use as orthopedic, dental, and other implants. They have high dimensional stability and resist cracking under stress, but are also flexible, behaving similarly to bone in the human body. PEEK polymers are also resistant to chemicals and radiation.

Polyphenol Sulfone (PPSU)

PPSU is readily sterilized and works well for reusable medical devices, especially those sterilized or sanitized with steam. It is strong yet flexible and lightweight, and has recently been adopted as an alternative to metals in some surgical instruments. PPSU has good resistance to acids, bases, disinfectants, and organic solvents.

Polypropylene (PP)

Polypropylene is a cost-effective, semi-rigid, tough material that is resistant to chemicals, fatigue, and stress. It can withstand repeated steam sterilization cycles and can be used in a variety of applications including surgical tools, test tubes, syringes, and some prosthetics.

Types of Medical Devices Made of Thermoplastic Composites

Thanks to their biocompatibility, strength, and versatility, thermoplastic composites can be used for many types of custom medical devices:

Lower Limb Prosthetics

Lower limb prosthetics include replacement components for hips, thighs, knees, ankles, and feet. They can be made partially or entirely from thermoplastics. These prosthetics restore the function and appearance of lower limbs, bones, and joints.

Bone Plates

Bone plates must be durable and strong enough to replace bone and still be somewhat flexible, similar to natural bone. Materials must also be biocompatible because they will be implanted. PEEK thermoplastics can be synthesized into cranial bone plates and other bone implants to address deformities, injuries, or missing bones or limbs.

Dental Composites

Resin-based composites, or filled resins, can be used for dental implants and replacements. The resins have a similar appearance to teeth, are insoluble, do not become dry or brittle, and are cost-effective.

Foot Orthotics

Thermoplastic composites can form hard, semi-rigid, and soft components in orthotic assemblies. These devices help rehabilitate, restore, or support function after soft tissue or bone-based foot injuries and neurological injuries or deformities.

Additionally, thermoplastic composites are ideal for high-volume production of various other medical components, including:

  • X-ray arm boards
  • Imaging devices
  • CT scanner components
  • MRI components (especially for non-magnetics)
  • Wheelchair parts
  • Walking aids
  • And more

Thermoplastic Composites for Medical Devices by Re:Build Oribi

The Re:Build Oribi team brings years of experience with thermoplastic composites to every project. We specialize in advanced thermoplastic composite applications for all markets. Our capabilities include injection molding, forming, overmolding, and fiber reinforced circular component manufacturing. Additional services include in-house engineering, design, and material selection support.

Contact us to learn more about using medical grade thermoplastic composite materials for implants, devices, and medical equipment, or to request a quote.

Call us today to improve your customers quality of life with the performance benefits of advanced composites.

Contact Us