Written By: Noël Daigle
Jason Brownell, Director of Engineering, was a Speaker at the August 11-12, 2020 SPE Plastics in Medical Manufacturing: The Virtual Edition.
The conference was held to exhibit the companies, technologies and individuals contributing to the Medical Industry and discussed “specific trends, strategies and opportunities for medical plastics manufacturers today.”
Jason’s presentation centered on solutions to the challenges of labeling medical plastics and why it’s imperative to use permanent labeling.
The solution for labeling medical plastics is focused on an advanced Fusion Labeling Technology engineered by Polyfuze Graphics, designed as an antimicrobial and permanent solution for healthcare industry products made from polyolefin thermoplastics like Polypropylene and Polyethylene.
Medical applications include the following:
These containers, waste bins, and devices are all made from Low Surface Energy Plastics, and when you walk into a healthcare or medical facility, you will see them everywhere.
A low surface energy plastic has a similar surface energy level to Teflon™, which means nothing will stick to them for long.
The result is that typical labeling technologies that are utilized for capacities such as: Warning, Informative, Tracking and Brand Recognition labeling, ultimately fail, causing the loss of not only the crucial information the label is designed to convey, but also results in labels peeling up, fading, cracking, and exposing gummy edges that also become breeding grounds for bacteria, pathogens, and Healthcare Associated Infections (HAI).
Jason described the four main labeling technologies in depth, and why they are not compatible with low surface energy medical plastics: In-Mold Labeling, Heat Transfers, Hot Stamp Foils, and Pressure Sensitive Adhesive (PSA) Labels.
In short, they are a multiple layer construction, and they are not the same material as the polyolefin plastic surface they attempt to stick to.
Repeated cycles of disinfectants, detergents, cryogenic freezing, autoclaving or general use causes the surfaces of these labeling technologies to become damaged and expose their underlying layers and gummy adhesives, which then become the perfect environment that harbors HAI causing virus and bacteria.
The irony is that while these very labels sole purpose is to provide instruction on how to safely handle infectious waste or substances, the label has itself becomes the breeding ground for bacteria and becomes unsafe for healthcare workers or patients to encounter. With 1.7 million affected patients (from HAIs), it’s important to recognize that there are improvements we can make to help ensure healthcare environments are safer for those who work and are treated in them. The labels become illegible and prime for carrying infectious droplets.
Because Polyfuze Patented Fusion Labeling Technology is made of the exact same material as the plastic part or component itself, it becomes 100% compatible for the life of the part and reliably endure daily abuse, autoclaving and more for the life of those products.
There are no inks, substrates, or adhesives. It is a 100% polymer label that fuses molecularly into the subsurface of the plastic, and therefore takes on the same attributes: Non-Polar, Low Surface Energy, and Expanding/Contracting with the part. It works cohesively with the part, not against it, therefore eliminating label failures by eliminating the source of those failures.
Once fused, Polyfuze Fusion Labels are fully flush with the medical product surface making those products easier to clean and sanitize in the healthcare environment. No peeling edges, gummy adhesives or exposed under layers to harbor virus or bacteria.
Polyfuze Fusion Labels can incorporate an antimicrobial infusion agent, at a 10% loading, this agent provides 100-200ppb silver ion efficacy right at the surface of the label where it’s most effective.