New GE materials may replace lead
GE Plastics has launched a new line of thermoplastic materials with high specific gravity (HSG) that may replace lead in many healthcare applications that call for radiation shielding. GE’s LNP Thermocomp HSG radiation shielding, high-density compounds enable x-ray shielding solutions without the use of known toxic substances, while providing greater design freedom and higher-volume manufacturing with lower total part cost through the use of injection molding.

“Lead continues to present health and disposal challenges to manufacturers of radiation-shielding products,” said Clare Frissora, market director, Healthcare, GE Plastics. “We’re very pleased to offer a new alternative to lead that can enable these manufacturers to design safer solutions. Our LNP Thermocomp HSG x-ray shielding compounds also provide the opportunity for design and cost advantages over lead in a wide range of healthcare applications.”

GE’s LNP Thermocomp x-ray shielding compounds have been shown to shield radiation up to the effectiveness of lead without leakage or hot spots. They are based on tungsten – a non-hazardous HSG material – in nylon 6. LNP Thermocomp HSG x-ray shielding compounds can be made with enhanced stiffness, strength and impact resistance for demanding injection-molding applications.

GE Healthcare chose an LNP Thermocomp HSG x-ray shielding compound for several applications within its OEC 9800 x-ray machine, which is designed for procedures such as cardiac, vascular and orthopedic surgeries. The shielding material is used in the collimator, which absorbs stray radiation and limits the x-ray exposure dose.

“Replacing lead with LNP Thermocomp HSG compound in our x-ray equipment may help us provide a higher level of safety for patients and caregivers,” said David Barker, engineering manager, GE Healthcare. “Part-to-part consistency made possible by injection molding facilitates uniform shielding, and gives designers precise control over the amount of radiation filtered through their devices. The fact that this compound is environmentally responsible and reduces overall system costs was a welcome bonus.”

GE Plastics is working with Thogus Products Company, a custom injection molder, to create new grades of the Thermocomp HSG material that match the specific gravity of lead, including a flexible version for specialized applications. The companies are also jointly working to develop an elastomeric grade with high elongation that will deliver exceptional design flexibility.