PEEK and PAEK enable lighter medical devices


Solvay’s medical grade KetaSpire polyetheretherketone (PEEK) and AvaSpire polyaryletherketone (PAEK) polymers enabled medical device pioneer, Shanghai Reach Medical Instrument Co., to develop a lighter, more ergonomic and highly cost-effective kit of reusable instruments for spinal surgeries.

“For decades, metal was the material of choice for medical instruments because conventional plastics could not deliver metal’s combination of high modulus, strong chemical resistance and compatibility with stringent sterilization methods,” says Xiaomin Huang, general manager of Shanghai Reach. “Today, Solvay’s broad range of specialty polymers is changing that reality – not only by offering metal-like performance, but by also enabling the fabrication of more complex and integrated parts through cost-effective injection molding.

Shanghai Reach’s innovative kit includes six reusable instruments:  one rod bender, two pairs of distraction and compression pliers, and three awls. For the rod bender, the medical device-maker specified KetaSpire KT-880 CF 30 PEEK, a 30% carbon fiber-reinforced resin that delivers the high strength and stiffness necessary to bend implantable 5.5mm to 6.0mm titanium rods. For the pliers and awls, Shanghai Reach chose AvaSpire AV 651 GF 50 PAEK, a 50% glass fiber-reinforced resin offering a cost-effective balance of strength, stiffness and dimensional stability.

Typically, these parts would be made from stainless steel. But Shanghai Reach’s goal was to reduce instrument weight by up to 70% for improved ergonomics, yet not compromise on mechanical properties or sterilizability. In addition to lightweight strength and stiffness, Solvay’s two biocompatible polymers offer strong resistance to fatigue and are compatible with sterilization methods based on stringent chemicals, steam and even gamma radiation. “Shanghai Reach’s innovative new kit highlights the ground-breaking value that Solvay’s advanced polymers are injecting into a healthcare market once dominated by metal,” states Jeff Hrivnak, global business development manager for healthcare at Solvay’s Specialty Polymers Business Unit. “We expect this trend to continue as we team with industry pioneers like Shanghai Reach to explore new possibilities for replacing metal medical instruments with more cost-effective, ergonomic instruments made from high-performance polymers.”

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