The idea of plastic injection molding can be traced back to the late 1800s, when it was first pioneered by the Hyatt brothers and kicked off the plastic manufacturing age. In the time since, plastics, and the injection molding process itself, have become vital to a wide range of industries, with the medical and pharmaceuticals fields being two of the most prominent. Read on to learn how injection molding has contributed to the advancement of medical technology.
The Advantages Of Plastic Injection Molding In The Medical And Pharmaceutical Fields
Like the name suggests, the plastic injection molding process involves the injection of molten materials into molds to create components. That molten material cools, and then takes the shape of whatever it’s been injected into. While it’s not just plastics that can be used for this process, plastic injection molding is popular because the material affords it some unique advantages, particularly where medical and pharmaceutical pros are concerned.
Speaking generally, plastic injection molding presents a cost-effective pathway for prototyping and eventually manufacturing components across industries, but when it comes to the medical and pharmaceutical fields, injection molding is also prized because of some key benefits:
- Strength and flexibility — Components made using plastic injection molding are flexible enough to be used for medical ware like tubing and pipes, but still retain enough strength to provide well-supported, sturdy parts, housing, etc. for equipment while remaining relatively light. Incredible strength v. weight is one of the primary characteristics of plastics, and it makes them well suited for the medical field..
- Precision and repeatability — Plastics are able to provide on par or even better precision-to-tolerance ratios than many metals, and, being a machine process, plastic injection molding also offers the ability to reproduce precision components again-and-again at high volumes and negligible losses in accuracy.
- Traceability — Being able to track where things came from, where they are, and where they are headed is of the utmost importance in the medical and pharmaceutical fields. The plastic injection molding process can offer that sort of monitoring, and is thus of great value when constructing medical devices.
- Reduced waste — Because the plastic injection molding process is quite precise, it generates a reduced amount of wasted material in comparison to other methods. In some cases, material waste that is generated can be recycled to help maximize production and minimize impacts to the environment.
- Lowered costs — All of these factors combined serve to make plastic injection molding a more cost controlled process, and those reductions in expense often allow hospitals (and by extension patients) to save money as well.
Because of these advantages over alternate construction processes, plastic injection molding has played a role in the creation of a wide range of equipment, including:
- Medical implants
- Syringes, IVs, and other delivery devices
- Surgical implements
- Lab devices
- Wearable monitors
- CT and MRI equipment
When selecting materials for such devices, manufacturers and their medical clients have a wide range of plastics to choose from, but can almost always meet the equipment standards they require due to the versatile nature of plastics themselves. These compounds—along with the injection molding process— have revolutionized the medical and pharmaceutical industries, and will likely play a key role in the cutting edge, life-saving technologies of the future as well.