Can plastics protect us from the Coronavirus? (Part 2)

In part 1 of our Coronavirus series, we presented the half-life results (in hours) of the SARS-CoV-2 virus on different surfaces such as Polypropylene (PP), stainless steel, cardboard and in the air. In this post we present different plastic end-use applications helping to fight the Coronavirus pandemic.

Plastics for medical devices and personal protection equipment

Just a few weeks ago, plastics industry was mainly in the news for discussing single-use plastic bans and other measurements to minimize plastics use. However, the Coronavirus outbreak, which ended in a pandemic quickly changed the course of the discussions. The whole plastics industry, from polymer manufacturer to plastics processing companies, is being challenged to increase the supply of life-saving medical devices.

Following medical devices are made by the help of plastics and are currently in high demand:

  1. Plastics for medical devices (engineering and high heat performance polymers): components for respiratory equipment including humidifier housings, positive end-expiatory pressure (PEEP) chambers and connectors.
  2. Plastics for additive manufacturing: 3D printing solutions for face shield holding frames. Details of different additive manufacturing applications will be discussed in our third part of this series.
  3. Plastics for personal protection equipment: face shield films made out of several materials such as PET (single use) and Polysulfones (sterilization possible; multiple time use).
Plastics for personal protection equipment: face shield films made out of several materials such as PET (single use) and Polysulfones (sterilization possible; multiple time use). The face shields are stabilized by a 3D printed frame (Source: pixabay.com).

A lot of companies, although Covid-19 impacts themselves (low order intake; safety measurements), show great innovation spirit. They turn their current facilities into producing the much needed parts for ventilation, face shield, and masks.

For example in the US, Prent Corp. dedicated an entire thermoforming production line to make face shields. They extrude scratch-resistant, recycled PETG and shape it afterwards. The extrusion die was developed in just five hours. The main aim is to supply the face shields to the local hospital since it is suffering a personal protection equipment shortage.

Apart of masks and face shields, single-use gloves are needed too. Austrian based rubber product manufacturer Semperit AG quickly reacted. They donated more than 60 million gloves from their Sempermed production facility in Kamunting, Malaysia. Four flights, operated by Austrian Airlines, are needed to bring them to Europe.

Apart of masks and face shields, single-use gloves are needed too (Source: pexels.com).

Hands-free opening of doors

Another creative way on how plastics can prevent the Coronavirus to spread is the application “Freehander” made by moulding company Stolz & Seng. It is a two part system which is mounted over screws onto your door handle. The used plastic is resistant towards aggressive cleaning detergents. Furthermore, the used compound is equipped with a flame retardant which allows using the Freehander in public offices and houses. Stolz & Seng set up a webshop too where you can order the Freehander.

“Freehander” made by moulding company Stolz & Seng (Source: Freehander, Stolz & Seng)

What about our food?

Not only protecting ourselves with face shields and gloves is important. Also protecting the food from germs is vital during the corona crises. Different studies have been kicked off to investigate weather single-use plastics are suitable to protect food from the Coronavirus. The US based Plastics Industry Association wrote a letter to the US Department of Health in which they claimed that:

” single-use products are the most sanitary choice when it comes to many applications.”

What are the plastics industry leaders thinking?

Due to the Coronavirus crisis, the annual technical conference for plastics professionals was moved from San Antonio, US into the online domain. It was named “ANTEC® 2020: The Virtual Edition”. One of the major key note speakers was Mr. Jim Fitterling, CEO of Dow Inc. During his discussion which was led by Plastics News, he stated:

“I’ve never in my career seen a time when our industry was more necessary and indispensable in the fight that we have on display today.”

This statements sums up all the creative and innovate minds working in the plastics industry helping to ease the pain of the corona crisis. Polymeric materials play an important role in the fight against the Coronavirus and also when the Covid-19 crisis is over, plastics will continue to play an important role in our healthcare systems.

We hope to welcome you in part three again which will focus on how additive manufacturing is helping to combat the Coronavirus.


Hopefully we were able to give you some new inputs. Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts and join the hubbub.

Peter & Herwig

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Literature:

https://www.rubbernews.com/coronavirus/semperit-group-sending-millions-rubber-gloves-austria-help-fight-covid-19

https://www.4spe.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3697

https://www.foodnavigator.com/Article/2020/04/01/Plastic-packaging-Hero-or-villain-in-the-coronavirus-era#.XoUIeKnzNuN.linkedin

https://www.plasticstoday.com/medical/thermoformers-step-produce-protective-gear-healthcare-workers/49704222062744

https://www.plasticstoday.com/business/plastics-workers-unsung-heroes-battle-against-covid-19/107038555662677

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