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Pfaff GmbH - plastics for clinical applications

Plastics can be used in a broad range of medical applications. Whether it be syringes, biodegradable joint screws or cannules for catheters – hospitals prefer high quality products that are not too costly. The company Pfaff GmbH from Waldkirch close to Freiburg has the know-how and the technical ability to manufacture plastics parts from different components. Injection moulding saves on assembly costs as well as being very exact. Pfaff GmbH was awarded the Freiburg Innovation Prize for two products manufactured from intelligent materials.

The type of machines used for injection moulding. (Photo: Pfaff GmbH)
The machines in Pfaff GmbH’s production department produce high-quality multi-colour and multi-component plastics parts for all industrial sectors. Hearing aid filters, rocker switches and optical fibres for the car industry and rotary handles for sports and leisure use are some of the large number of products that the company offers. In the past, the assembly of such products from individual components was a laborious process. With multi-component injection moulding, it has been possible to produce moulded parts consisting of several components on a single machine for several years now. This saves time and money and is also more interesting for the medical industry.

Intelligent materials in hospitals

Stimulation probes can be coated with plastics using injection moulding. The picture shows the different steps leading to the final product with the red plastic sheath. (Photo: Pfaff GmbH)
“Plastics parts manufactured from different components are in great demand in the field of medical technology,” said Adolf Pfaff, Managing Director and founder of Pfaff GmbH located in Waldkirch close to Freiburg. Pfaff is a trained toolmaker who later became involved in the construction of injection moulding machines. He set up the company in 1992 with the aim of focusing on the development of microsystems plastics parts. His first product was a device to prevent backflow in drinking water conduits; this was followed by syringes and coatings for simulation probes for application in medical technology. Pfaff’s daughter, Corinna Pfaff, has been co-director of the company since September 2007. The company currently has a staff of 10.

Not long after the foundation of the company, Pfaff started to work with plastics with intelligent properties. And his tendency to be open to innovation soon bore fruit. Working in collaboration with the Charité Hospital in Berlin and the Department of Materials Research at the Technical University in Berlin, Pfaff GmbH developed a permanent venous catheter for which the company was awarded the Innovation Prize of Technology Foundation BioMed Freiburg and Sparkasse Nördlicher Breisgau Bank in 2004.

The tube is inserted into the vein of a patient before connecting it to an infusion catheter, and consists partly of shape memory material which, when it reaches body temperature, takes on a form that has been predetermined by mechanical and thermal impulses. The catheter is thin enough for doctors to insert it into collapsed veins. “Intelligent materials of this kind are playing an increasing role in medicine,” said Pfaff. “For example, they make minimal invasive surgery possible.” The latest Pfaff product, produced in cooperation with the University Dental Hospital a few years ago, clearly highlights the enormous progress that can be achieved by using shape memory materials.

Worth its weight in gold

The Freiburg Innovation Prize 2006 certificate given to Pfaff GmbH and its cooperation partner for the development of intelligent root pins. (Photo: Pfaff GmbH)
The root pins are made from shape memory plastics produced with injection moulding. The pins are used by dentists to fill open root canals. The filling material is applied to the pins that are then inserted into the root opening. Body temperature causes the pin to expand, which then packs out the canal and drives out air bubbles. In the past, the air bubbles in the filling material generated optimal growth conditions for bacteria, which often led to unpleasant infections and costly follow-up treatment. The cost reductions achieved by the new method amount to around €850 million per year in Germany alone. Pfaff GmbH and its cooperation partner also received the Freiburg Innovation Prize in 2006.

mn – 22 September 2008
© BIOPRO Baden-Württemberg GmbH

Further information:
Adolf Pfaff
Spinnereistraße 4-6
79183 Waldkirch
Tel.: ++49 (0)7681/24801
Fax: ++49 (0)7681/24802
E-mail: info@pfaff-sis.de
Website address: https://www.biooekonomie-bw.de/en/articles/pm/pfaff-gmbh-plastics-for-clinical-applications