Plastics are plating a key role in protecting healthcare workers and members of society during the coronavirus pandemic.
Many government bodies, including in the U.S. states of New York and Maine, have stopped plans to implement bans on single-use plastics such as retail shopping bags, as they are less likely to spread germs than frequently reused fabric carriers. Others have un-banned expanded polystyrene food containers, as they are unquestionably effective as packages for take-out and home-delivery food from restaurants.
There is a spike in demand for plastic-intensive products like housings and parts for medical gear such as respirators and ventilators, as well as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers such as masks, gowns, and goggles. Other standard plastic medical products continue to help the fight – from polycarbonate syringes and intravenous components, to polyvinyl chloride medical tubing and blood bags.
3D printing has also helped develop critical components. Recently, an Italian 3D printing start-up called Issinova, reverse-engineered a valve for a ventilator machine, and within hours was able to produce replacements for out-of-stock valves that helped to save the lives of several people in a hospital in Brescia. The company several Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) machines to 3D print a plastic valve at a cost of about $1 per part. The original part costs about $11,000, according to the report. 3D printed plastic parts will help meet demand of medical components in short supply.
Carefully formulated plastic compounds are also helping the cause. Patented oxidised copper when compounded with different types of resins, yields a material that can kill bacteria. Press-moulded solid surface countertops and tables have been proven to dramatically reduce the incidence of Hospital-Acquired Infections (HAIs), such as staph infections. Testing is on to impregnate the plastic-copper additive in fabrics (such as bed linens, hospital gowns or face masks) to confirm its effectiveness against the Covid-19 virus.
Others have long been incorporating antimicrobial additives into plastic compounds to reduce the transmission of various diseases.