Written By: Noel Daigle
Reusable medical plastics are made from olefin-based polymer or resin. This type of plastic is incredibly durable and possesses characteristics that make it ideal for medical applications.
This type of plastic will inherently resist corrosive substances, will naturally expand with extreme hot/cold temperatures (which helps promote durability), and is resistant to harsh chemical cleanings, repeated sanitization, and pressure washing or autoclave processes that are subject to occur regularly in a healthcare environment. For example, humidity is a frequent culprit that causes label failure.
These plastics are a virtually perfect option for medical devices, containers, and more, but these inherent characteristics do present one seemingly impossible obstacle.
The traits that low surface energy plastic products possess also make them impossible to label with traditional labeling technologies. Products made from olefin-based plastics have a surface energy level similar to that of Teflon.
Surface energy is measured in dynes per centimeter. Although steel, a high surface energy material, sits at approximately 1000 dynes, polyethylene (a derivative of olefin) comes in at 31 dynes. For comparison, Teflon comes in at 18 dynes. That’s right, olefin plastic and its derivatives have a similar energy level to a material that is designed to ensure that nothing sticks when cooking with it.
Low surface energy plastic is an extraordinary material to use for many applications, but nothing wants to stick to them, including typical labeling technologies which were not designed to integrate with this type of plastic, and comprise incompatible materials.
Typical labeling technologies such as in-mold labels, hot stamps, heat transfers, and pressure-sensitive adhesive labels (stickers) comprise multi-layer, incompatible materials that the surface of the plastic rejects. Given the simple test of time, the labels will continually fail, fade, and degrade during the lifespan of the part. When you factor in the extra impacts that are created in a healthcare environment, such as sanitization or autoclave/pressure washing processes, this label failure accelerates.
Because typical labels are composed of multilayers, they eventually expose these underlayers and become fomites that can harbor harmful microbes for hours, days, and even weeks. They cannot be reliably sanitized and when they are subjected to harsh chemicals or cleanings, they degrade even faster.
The answer is yes. Medical labels provide essential information such as biohazard information, information/instructions for use, may include barcode information, and the company may also want their brand name and logo on the container as well.
When medical labels fail, it results not only in the loss of this vital information that is required by law to be present, but it can also compromise the identity of who owns the container in the first place.
Though several companies manufacture these same types of waste containers, that also creates a sort of problem: They all look the same. When it comes to pick them up for disposal of contents and cleaned, the containers are mistakenly picked up by the wrong company or even outright stolen because the labels fall off and are easily removed.
A medical container is not cheap to purchase, which results in significant losses for the company when the label fails.
The only solution for low surface energy plastics is a label that inherits low surface energy properties.
Polymer Fusion Labels were designed specifically to overcome the inherent properties of low surface energy plastics.
These labels do what their name suggests, they “fuse” molecularly into the subsurface of the plastic and the label and the medical plastic become one solid piece, with no change in durability or structural integrity.
They do not utilize any incompatible materials whatsoever. No inks, substrates, or adhesives. They are designed of a single layer of 100% compatible polymers that become a literal part of the plastic surface, rather than trying to “stick” to it.
Furthermore, our labels help to combat harmful microbes.
They do this by literally creating a “label-less” appearance on the medical plastic. If you run your finger over the label, it feels flat because it is a part of the plastic after the fusion process.
It cannot be lifted, scratched, or peeled up, which for typical labels would expose the gummy adhesives (places where harmful microbes can propagate).
A Polymer Fusion Label will never separate from the subsurface of the plastic.
They can be reliably cleansed, even with harsh chemicals, undergo autoclave or pressure washing methods, and withstand abuse for the lifespan of the part without ever degrading or falling off, our lifetime warranty guarantees it.
Our labels also do not require any secondary processes or pretreatment. It just takes standard hot stamp equipment heated up to the melting point of the plastic label and the plastic part, and the two will fuse together to form one solid piece.
This fusion process ensures that the labels adorning the medical container will never fade, crack, peel, or fail, resulting in a lasting brand name, warning label, barcode, or all of the above that will ensure that a company investing in medical containers will always be able to retrieve their containers and reuse them for the life of the part.
If you are looking for a solution for labeling your olefin plastic medical containers, and you’re struggling with this problem, we are here to help. Whether we can help solve a durability issue, or help streamline your processes to save you time and money, we are here to help!