Many sectors of the healthcare industry – hospitals, clinics, outpatient services and many others – have to make use of plastic tubing. It is used to deliver intravenous medication, it is used in laboratories, it is used in catheter systems and in many other applications.
In every application, health care providers must be assured that the plastic tubing products known as medical tubing used in their facilities will function perfectly and pose no risk to patients or staff. Strict requirements of cleanliness and non-toxicity are applied to all plastic tubing used in the healthcare industry. Medical tubing can only be made from a limited variety of materials; plastic materials that do not cause allergic or other reactions in patients are essential.
Medical tubing is typically more expensive than other types of plastic tubing, but the use of medical tubing provides numerous benefits, even outside of the health services industry. For example, medical tubing can be engineered to very small diameters without compromising tubing wall integrity; most medical tubing manufacturers produce multilayered tubes with reinforcements made with multiple layers of many different materials. Such tubes can be useful in laboratories and other high-tech applications.
Medical tubing, like all plastic tubing varieties, is fabricated during a thermoforming process. There are a number of different possible thermoforming processes, but the most effective and efficient method of thermoforming is extrusion. Plastic extrusion is the process of forcing molten plastic through a die to create a shaped product.
A die is a special tool that shapes raw materials into a usable product. In the case of plastic extrusion, the die features a small hole and a pin through which the plastic passes. At the beginning of the extrusion process, a stock of raw plastic material is collected in a hopper suspended over a conveyance channel. A long screw within the conveyance channel turns and forces the plastic material toward the die.
The friction caused by the turning of the screw heats that plastic to a molten state. At this point, the plastic is forced through the die. The plastic emerges on the other side of the die as newly extruded plastic tubing. That plastic is then allowed to cool and harden. It is then cut to length and prepared for shipment or sent for additional processing.