PLASTIC COMPONENTS AND SINGLE-USE SYSTEM RESEARCH
Many questions were raised over initial plastic designs. These issues were exacerbated by the general lack of polymer knowledge
after years of metal use.
The list of candidate plastics for single-use pharmaceutical processing includes those currently used in industry designs
(see Table I). One of the strengths of these plastic components is the diversity of properties and designs presented. However,
this also represents one of the main challenges as biopharm engineers struggled with how to incorporate a number of material
components into a system and industry designed to minimize risk.
Table I: Chemical, brand name, and application of common plastics.
Membrane and filtration
The longest running polymer components used in biopharmaceutical applications are filter membranes and cartridges. These components
have been used in fixed systems for many years. Membrane filtering applications have primarily used polytetrafluoroethylene
(PTFE), polyvinyldene fluoride (PVDF), polypropylene (PP), and polyethersulfone (PES) (2). PVDF has been the resin of choice
for over 20 years in protein synthesis and separation for biopharm applications. The large surface to volume ratios required
in filter membranes exceeds that of other common components including tubing and containers. Therefore, this fluoropolymer
resin has been long vetted and provides biopharmaceutical process engineers with a track record and history of successful
performance in industry processes.
Polymer materials, especially PP and PVDF, have experienced success supplanting stainless steel in some fixed industry piping
designs as the materials could be used in various water service criteria, including United States Pharmacopeia (USP) purified
water for both plastic resins. Additionally, PVDF piping lends itself to use in ultra high purity water, laboratory reagent
grade water Type 1, as well as Semiconductor UHPW ASTM Type 1 service criteria. One advantage of polymer components to stainless
steel is the latter's capacity to rust or rouge in high-purity water causing system contamination. Chemical passivation is
frequently required to remove free ions from the surface and restore the oxide film that gives stainless steel its corrosion
Tubing and fittings
Tubing is the most highly utilized component within a disposable system because large fluid transfer is required with the
single-use system design. Multiple materials have been used ranging from silicone, EVA, TPE compounds, low density PE, PTFE,
and PVDF copolymers.
Molded fittings are required to attach or weld to other process componetry including bags and containers. Therefore, welding
and processability becomes an important design criteria. The most common industry fitting materials are PE, PP, polycarbonate
(PC), silicone, and PVDF.
Film bags and containers pose possibly the most significant challenge as they are needed in numerous disposables functions
starting with reaction vessels and progressing to transfer, storage and media preparation. Long dwell times are the norm,
which makes purity concerns paramount despite being only one of a host of factors that affect their maximum utilization. These
bags must be strong and tough, possess barrier properties and have the ability to melt bond effectively in multilayer structures.
Purity, melt processability and bonding, as well as the contact layers ability to be sterilized while providing a significant
barrier or permeation properties is a tall task. Common bag layers include EVA, PE, and PVDF.