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Seals are a vital part of the medical industry
, and you will typically see high performance polymers seals used because of the critical need for reliability.  

In this blog post, we are going to discuss the use of seals in the medical industry, and including what types of materials and seals are typically seen.

 

Types of Polymers

Polymer seals that are commonly found in medical equipment include …

  • PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene, tradename Teflon)
  • PEEK (polyether ether ketone)
  • UHMW-PE (ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene)

This are high-performance engineering plastics that offer vital characteristics such as low friction, dimensional stability, wide range of operating temperatures, excellent wear, and chemical compatibility.  However, not all grades of these plastics are suitable for use in medical applications. For example, many applications require a polymer with approval from groups such as the FDA or USP.  In addition, another challenge often faced when designing medical seals is the issue of biocompatibility.

Types of Seals

Medical applications typically require high-performance seals including spring-energized seals and labyrinth seals.  The actual type of seal depends on whether it is a static or dynamic seal, as well as other factors such as pressure, temperature, surface speed (for dynamic seals), size, and the type of chemicals involved.  For example, high-speed seals are needed for applications such as surgical saws and bone saws.  Some projects may require seals that are well-suited to cryogenic temperatures, whereas others might need to deal with vacuum pressure or electrical interference.  However, seals can be designed to meet even the most demanding of applications.

Typical Applications

The applications for seals in the medical industry are wide and varied – however, the most common application is drug delivery systems.  Reliable sealing is the key to developing systems that can permit the continual, precise delivery of medications for issues such as chronic pain, hepatitis, diabetes, and caner.

There are other numerous applications, however.  For example, in a surgical suite they can be found in endoscopes, respiratory equipment, surgical saws, bones saws, and surgical drills.  People that have sleep apnea use CPAP machines that contain seals, while people with COPD often use home oxygen concentrators that also have seals.  They are found in medical safety valves, respiratory masks, catheters, medical pumps, and oxygen pumps.  Polymer seals are used in equipment such as kidney dialysis machines, testing equipment, and analytical equipment.

Conclusion

High performance seals are a key component for so much of the equipment used in the medical industry.  Often required to meet rigorous standards and provide exceptional reliability, these seals can be a challenge to design and implement – but engineering polymers can meet that challenge.

Interested in reading more about seals for the medical industry?  You may enjoy these articles:

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