Traditionally, the medical and pharmaceutical industries have been highly conservative and regulated environments where changes in material take inordinate amounts of time, primarily driven by the proclivity to corrosion of those materials. Due to their nature and specific applications, devices designed for medical or pharmaceutical uses must meet extremely demanding design and manufacturing criteria.
Such applications are part of a very broad spectrum of products and designs in all shapes and sizes and materials to perform a wide range of functions.
Stainless steel is one of the most commonly used materials in the manufacture of medical and pharmaceutical devices, and in particular stainless steel 304. Stainless steel is regarded the world over as one of the most suitable materials for the manufacture of medical devices for all sorts of applications. A high corrosion resistance and low carbon content are key factors that make stainless steel the ideal material for medical applications.
The reassurance that medical devices won’t chemically react with bodily tissue, cleaning products used to sterilize and the hard, repetitive wear that many medical devices are subjected to, means that stainless steel is the perfect material for hospitals, surgeries and paramedic applications, manufacturing of pharmaceutical products, medications, test kits, etc.
Pharmaceutical and medical applications in general have a lot in common with food and beverage applications which demand that the materials used are corrosion resistant, and strong enough to withstand the service environment, with a minimal release of contaminants in the surrounding environment or products served. Within this context, regulators are concerned with the potential effects of metal and alloys on human health and human consumption related products exemplified by FDA’s warning letters to food producers to follow Good Manufacturing Practice as required by law (see 21CFR 110.80(b)(8)). It would be accurate to say that the legal criteria covers devices that are used to manufacture or transport drugs, medicines, test kits and other products used in the medical and pharmaceutical field for human consumption.
Solid stainless steel conveyor belts for medical and pharmaceutical applications provide a non-porous surface, highly resistant to extreme temperatures (250 F for sterilization, autoclaves, etc. without outgassing or generation of particulates for clean room applications), where bacteria cannot survive, as opposed to other materials such as plastic or rubber that cannot withstand more than 212 F. Several scientific studies, (ie. Midelet and Carpentier, 2002, and Tolvanen et al., 2007), show that the attachment of harmful bacteria to stainless steel is considerably lower than it is to plastic or rubber materials. This makes solid stainless steel conveyor belts an ideal surface for the transportation and manufacturing of sensitive materials used in the medical/pharmaceutical fields.
In addition, solid stainless steel conveyors are easy to operate and sanitize, are cost effective, do not require any specific training or additional equipment and are compliant with current FDA regulations. It is important to observe that solid stainless steel belts for medical/pharmaceutical applications in clean room and operating room environments can be cleaned in place, with less corrosive and aggressive detergents and processes, significantly reducing downtime, labor and other expenses to remove, wash and reinstall the belts like the case of mesh conveyors where bacteria are embedded in joints and crevices difficult to reach and drain by cleaning agents.
The combination of a bacteria resistant material such as stainless steel and a superior manufacturing standards of solid endless conveyor belts and drive tapes offer diverse advantages, virtually endless applications, and a lower cost high benefit ratio, with minimum additional equipment and or training in the medical/pharmaceutical industries.
Belt Technologies, Inc. is a company specializing in unique solutions to automation problems which has been developing high quality advanced customized endless stainless steel belts systems for over 50 years.