CLEVELAND—Lubrizol Corp.'s LifeScience Polymers division has launched a flame-retardant thermoplastic polyurethane designed for medical applications, including wire and cable components.
The TPU is an expansion of a polymer the company introduced last year, AR-62, an extremely soft, non-plasticized material.
The firm was looking to create a material that could be extruded and injection molded, but also maintains a rubber feel.
The flame-retardant TPU took about six to eight months to develop, according to company officials. The product is made at a number of Lubrizol's facilities throughout the U.S. and marketed globally.
"So far we've seen potential applications for replacing materials like rubber," said Uwe Winzen, global marketing manager of Lubrizol's LifeScience Polymers division. "Now we're looking to go into applications that are a little harder. We're looking at more traditional products that wanted to have flame retardancy built into it but were not able to."
The product was featured in June at the Medical Design & Manufacturing East conference in Philadelphia. Winzen said customer feedback has been phenomenal since its release.
"I would say this has been record feedback in terms of interest," he said.
To ensure it was suitable for medical applications, the TPU exhibits low smoke and toxicology. According to Ralf Huether, global business manager of Lubrizol's LifeScience Polymers division, the TPU also is flame retardant with a limiting oxygen index of 30.
That means it would have to be in an environment consisting of 30 percent oxygen for the flame to keep burning. The material contains no plasticizer, no solvents or any chemical reactions are involved in the process.
Winzen said because the material can be injection molded and extruded, it can be customized to different sizes and thickness depending on a customer's needs. Lubrizol can even mix and match hardness within the same product for customers who may want a soft shell on the inside of their products and a hard shell on the outside.
Compounds can be molded together with 100 percent compatibility because each TPU has the same chemistry.
This gives Lubrizol the ability to customize these materials to a variety of customer needs—including size, hardness and color.
"The customer is not limited by any means," Winzen said. "If the customer wants to have a different color, or an additional functionality built into the polymer, we can do this while making the polymer."
Lubrizol initially targeted the TPU for wire and cable use in the medical industry, but according to Winzen, the TPU can be used for enclosures and analytical equipment such as defibrillators or heart monitors. The company also is looking at applications in tubing and general medical and surgical instruments.
Lubrizol is working on expanding this technology into other grades harder than 62.
The company is targeting grades ranging from 70-90 to add to the product line in the near future.