Top 8 Materials for Medical Device Packaging

Face Shield Cleanroom
August 6, 2021

Selecting the correct plastic material for medical device packaging is critical for ensuring a successful finished part. Each material has different characteristics, properties, and strengths that are ideal for different applications. Therefore, many factors can influence material selection, ranging from performance to appearance to cost. By investigating project parameters and requirements, Brentwood’s team can help choose the best, most cost-effective material to meet packaging goals and regulations.

Here are the top eight materials used for medical device packaging applications:

  1. PETG – Glycol modified polyethylene terephthalate (amorphous copolyester) is one of the most commonly used materials for medical thermoformed tray packaging. It is transparent, exhibits good mechanical properties, and is compatible with the most common types of sterilization methods (ETO, radiation, gas plasma). PETG provides a clear and tough material that works well for applications that require deep draws and complex designs, without sacrificing structural integrity.
  2. HIPS– High Impact Polystyrene is a versatile and cost-effective material that is tough, rigid, and easy to form. If clarity is not required, HIPS is an excellent material option, and can withstand the same sterilization processes as PETG.
  3. PETG FOAM – Glycol modified polyethylene terephthalate foam offers a clean and durable alternative to HIPS for opaque product applications. This multilayer coextrusion contains PETG on the outside layers (for improved sealing) and PETG foam with improved density in the core layer.
  4. PP – Polypropylene is a cost-effective material that features high flexural and impact strength, is anti-static, and offers good moisture resistance. There are special formulas available that are clarified, gamma sterilization resistant, and steam sterilizable.
  5. PC – Polycarbonate offers stability and high-impact strength, allowing for higher-temperature sterilization methods to be used (such as steam sterilization). This specialty material is very expensive, when compared to the other material options.
  6. Tritan – Eastman Chemical offers another amorphous copolyester, that combines excellent clarity and toughness with highly improved heat and chemical resistance. When compared with PETG, Tritan’s higher HDT (heat distortion temperature) provides slower aging properties, increased impact toughness, and better stability during rigorous ETO sterilization processes.
  7. APET – Amorphous polyester is a clear, yet crystallizable, polyester mainly seen in food and consumer packaging. It is sometimes used for lightweight pouched medical trays with mild sterilization processes. This is a lower cost option when compared to PETG.
  8. HDPE – High-density polyethylene is stronger and stiffer than standard polyethylene, with good impact and abrasion resistance. This product has a milky appearance, thus providing a lower cost option.

Selecting the right material for your medical device packaging is crucial to ensure success when processed, sterilized, aged, and shipped to doctors and/or hospitals. There are several questions you can ask yourself before selecting a material. Does the package need to be transparent, or can it be opaque? Package functionality is another variable. Does the package require additional moisture or oxygen barrier properties (such as PETG/Aclar coextrusions)?  Which sterilization process does the package need to withstand – ethylene oxide, gamma or electron beam radiation, gas plasma, or steam sterilization? Are there cost goals or limitations dictating material selection?

If you still need help choosing the right material for your medical device packaging, start a conversation with one of our designers and they will help you select the perfect material.

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