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Medtec China 2023: Growing use of plastics and step up of independent R&D in China

Source:Adsale Plastics Network Date :2023-06-21 Editor :JK

The post-pandemic era presents both challenges and opportunities for China's medical device manufacturing industry. A considerable number of rubber and plastic materials, equipment and product companies made their appearance at the Medtec China 2023.


Amidst the intense competition in the automotive and packaging manufacturing sectors, the healthcare industry has emerged as the coveted “golden avenue” for companies seeking new prospects. Whether or not it is domestic or foreign enterprises, they are striving to make their mark and achieve sustainable success in this market by self-innovation or strengthening localized production.


Replace glass with plastics for medical packaging


Plastic materials have already claimed the largest market share in the medical packaging industry and there is a growing trend towards replacing glass with plastic in long-established product categories like oral liquids and pre-filled syringes.


According to Tong Yaozong, Senior R&D Manager at Berry Ace, using plastics in oral liquid packaging bottles is one of the current trends in the pharmaceutical packaging transformation.


Berry Ace launches oral liquid packaging bottles made with plastics.

Berry Ace introduced plastic-based oral liquid packaging bottles that offer several advantages over their glass counterparts, like cutting materials cost, eliminating the intricate procedures of bottle blowing, washing and lamp inspection typically associated with glass bottle production. Plastic bottles also ensure easy transport and, as a result, reduces production costs.


Zhou Yang, Sales Manager at Fanuc, highlighted that the market for pre-filled syringes made from cyclic olefin copolymer (COC)/cyclic olefin polymer (COP) materials have substantial growth prospects in the coming years. These materials offer high transparency comparable to glass and effectively minimize protein adsorption and aggregation during shaking and storage processes.


Zhou Yang emphasized that once the production process of COC/COP becomes mature and prices decline, there is a promising prospect for widespread adoption of COC/COP syringes as a substitute for glass syringes, which is a major boon for the electric injection molding machine market.


Work on high-value medical consumables and equipment segments


The medical equipment processing and manufacturing industry holds a positive outlook for highly lucrative niche markets, including blood dialysis, microfluidic chips, anastomotic devices, ophthalmic implant consumables, cell culture vessels and a wide range of customized components.


Due to the close contact with the human body, these high-value consumables and devices demand high precision and safety. Their added value is also high.


The booth of Trelleborg Sealing Solutions and Minnesota Rubber & Plastics.

The booth of Trelleborg Sealing Solutions and Minnesota Rubber & Plastics presented a diverse assortment of plastic sealing rings, including tear duct plugs measuring a mere 0.4 millimeters in diameter, which serve as an effective treatment for dry eye syndrome when inserted into the lacrimal ducts.


Wei Xuefeng, Manager of New Product Development at Minnesota Precision Products (Suzhou) Limited, affirms that the expanding aging population in China has significantly raised the demand for cardiovascular treatments and related surgeries.


Consequently, Wei believes that medical devices associated with the cardiovascular system, such as puncture devices and ultrasonic scalpels, along with high-value consumables, will see a promising growth trajectory.


The booth of Minnesota Precision Products (Suzhou) Limited.

Tong Zhongbao, General Manager of Asia Pacific Region of Oliver Healthcare Packaging, said that many medical companies are actively participating in the research and development of innovative products, including minimally invasive surgical instruments, diagnostic devices and biopharmaceuticals.


These products are unlikely candidates for the government's centralized procurement system; however, they offer enterprises a competitive edge in the market. They have also posed new demands on medical packaging, necessitating assured materials safety, cost advantages and the ability to facilitate automated manufacturing, Tong stated.


Tong Zhongbao, General Manager of Asia Pacific Region of Oliver Healthcare Packaging.

With this in mind, Oliver Healthcare Packaging has been strengthening its product innovation in recent years, expanding its product range and launching a variety of roll stock products that can be produced automatically. These inventive medical packaging solutions include the medical support card that offers a mold-free alternative to thermoformed trays.


Speed up independent R&D and localized production


In response to centralized procurement policies, medical consumables and equipment companies need to intensify their efforts on innovation while minimizing costs.


Localized production aids in cost reduction and ensures supply chain stability, prompting domestic enterprises to accelerate independent research and development, while also incentivizing foreign companies to amplify their investments in local production.


In the post-pandemic era, with the market gradually returning to rationality, customers exhibit heightened concern for safety and professional certifications when selecting medical materials, stressed Luo Kai, Business Development Manager of the High-Performance Polymers Division at Wanhua Chemical Group Co.


Wanhua Chemical provides polymer solutions for medical catheters.

Wanhua Chemical has developed various high-end medical high-polymer materials and has established a world-class PMMA facility, introducing optical-grade PMMA products with high purity and optical performance.


Their Nylon 12/PEBA Elastomer, renowned for its dimensional stability, chemical resistance and tensile rebound capability, is scheduled for production this year, finding applications in anesthesia tubes and more. POE products will also be put into production next year.


With high physical and mechanical properties, good aging resistance, low-temperature durability and ease of processing, POE can be used in the inner film of infusion bags and beyond.


Röhm put focus on its high-performance CYROLITE acrylic that boasts high biocompatibility. This versatile material finds application in a wide range of medical consumables and equipment, including cell culture dishes, kidney dialysis devices and other devices that are in contact with blood. Besides, it is suitable for in-vitro diagnostics and surgical table lighting.


Dr. Zhu Yu, Director of PMMA Molding Plastics Development and Strategy at Röhm Chemical (Shanghai) Co., Ltd.

“We have great confidence in the prospects of China's medical consumables and medical device market. During the pandemic, Rohm Chemical made significant investments in its Shanghai facility and expanding its production capabilities with the establishment of two new lines,” told Dr. Zhu Yu, Director of PMMA Molding Plastics Development and Strategy at Röhm Chemical (Shanghai) Co., Ltd. "One is designed to produce modified granules, which commenced operations in November 2022, the other is dedicated to the production of transparent granules."


Sun Lin, Regional Sales Manager of the Medical and Healthcare Division of Amcor PLC Greater China, pointed out that some customers expressed the desire to reduce costs. “With rich product portfolio and robust supply chain, Amcor is well-equipped to offer tailored technical support according to our clients' requirements.”


Amcor's medical dialysis paper.

“Amcor's commitment to excellence is exemplified by its $10 million investment in the establishment of the Asia-Pacific Research and Development Center in Jiangyin, which serves as a vital cornerstone within our global R&D network.”


"We acquired MDK this year. By harnessing MDK's expertise in coating technology, medical paper-based packaging solutions and customer resources, Amcor has not only diversified its product portfolio but has also solidified its leadership in the Chinese medical device packaging market," Sun continued.


High-precision molding and intelligent inspection for production efficiency


Dissimilar to other plastic products, medical rubber and plastic items exhibit a diverse range of offerings, call for elevated levels of customization and have higher demands for safety. This requires molding equipment that is not only capable of high-volume, high-precision production, but also of individual customization.


Demag's all-electric IntElect produced optical IVD components on-site.

The showcased Demag's all-electric IntElect embodies very good repeatability and precision, enabling swift axis motion and seamless axis position control. When coupled with a multi-cavity configuration, it enables high-volume production.


Zeiss showed the integration of an intelligent CT measurement system into a precision injection molding ecosystem, catering to multiple application scenarios such as sample validation for mold trials or in-process inspections at the production line.


An intelligent CT measurement system of Zeiss.

This cutting-edge innovation leverages the automation scripts of GOM Volume Inspect Pro to achieve seamless, efficient measurements in a one-click fashion, thereby enabling intelligent, high-throughput measurement.


Moreover, Fanuc presented an on-site demonstration of a high-speed injection molding solution for syringe needle seat protective caps. With its high-speed mold opening and closing capability, this device enables swift injection molding of the caps. Its integration with the latest-generation ROBOSHOT 21-inch capacitive touchscreen streamlines the operational process.


FANUC's high-speed injection molding solution for producing syringe seat caps.


A bright outlook for the medical sector


Despite the challenges that centralized procurement poses to companies along the medical industry chain, the future of China's medical devices and consumables market remains resolutely optimistic.


According to the report “Current Status and Trends of the Chinese Medical Device Industry” published by Roland Berger, the Chinese medical device market exceeded RMB900 billion in size in 2022. It is projected that by 2030, the market will surpass RMB2.2 trillion (approximately US$320 billion), positioning China as the world's largest medical device market.


“With a huge population and a rapid increase in consumer purchasing power over the past five years, coupled with their growing awareness of physical well-being and healthcare, we firmly believe that the medical devices and consumables market in China will maintain stable growth in the next 5-10 years,” commented Pietro Scattareggia, CEO of Demag Plastics Machinery (Ningbo) Co., Ltd.


In addition, the ten-year national plan, “Made in China 2025” issued by the State Council explicitly states that the proportion of high-end medical devices in China will be raised to 70%. This definitive roadmap will drive China’s medical device market towards high-end sophistication and customization, offering a vast arena for high-safety materials and high-precision molding solutions.

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