The global market for medical polymers will grow to over $2.9 billion in revenue by 2021, according to a recent report from n-tech Research.

According to the report, implants currently consume about half the medical polymers produced, and are expected to account for around $1.7 billion in polymer sales by 2021. Polymers have been penetrating the implant market because they are lower cost and lighter weight than metal alternatives, such as titanium. But they also benefit from aging population and enabling technologies, especially medical imaging.

Similar trends are driving the markets for polymers used in diagnostic systems, which will reach more than $1 billion in 2021. Diagnostic technologies are an inevitable part of health management programs today and currently most diagnostic procedures are rapid, multi-assays in which plastics have become indispensable. The growth prospects in this sector are therefore especially strong.

Medical polymer revenues are spread over a range of polymers. By far the biggest contributor to revenues is PMMA, which will generate $745 million in 2021. PS/styrenics, LDPE and PEEK are also important commercial medical polymers. Combined, these four types of polymer will account for 54% of the medical polymer market by 2021.

The last decade has also seen the rise of biodegradable polymers and n-tech believes current trends indicate that entire prostheses soon may be developed from these materials. While they will not be used to manufacture diagnostic products, biodegradable polymers will be incorporated into implants and even some clinical labware. There is also additional interest in discovering new biodegradable polymers for medical applications, but investment in this area is limited due to the need to complete extensive long-term studies in order to validate new materials.

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