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Q&A: Gel-Pak's journey and product development

After Gel-Pak announced what they will be showcasing at MD&M, Medical Plastics News spoke to the team and to see the products in person. 

× What do you offer the medical industry? 

Gel-Pak makes biocompatible device carriers and unique elastomer films for medical applications. Our carriers hold medical components in place during processing and transport; there’s a broad scope of what we do with the films, but an interesting recent application was creating film for a unique drug delivery system.  

The film is made from a specialty resin that’s been infused with a medication. We extruded it into a thin film that will later be integrated into a drug delivery system.  

How are you different than other companies in the industry? 

I would say that it is our ability to collaborate with customers to develop films and other elastomer based products that meet their specific needs. Our team is involved throughout the development process to ensure the final product is exactly what the customer needs. We offer tight process controls and operate in a cleanroom environment, which is essential to our medical customers.   

We also manufacture device carriers for medical components. Our line of boxes, trays, slides and films have a sticky polymer at the bottom that immobilises components, keeping them safe from damage during handling. The packaging is biocompatible and leaves no residue behind on the components, which is important to this market.  

Another thing that sets us apart is our expertise in polymer science. We have an in-house team that can dial in just the right formulation for a customer’s application. Whether its modulating tack for one of our carrier products, or manipulating the properties of a film for a specific outcome.

How did the company start out? 

Gel-Pak was actually “born” more than 40 years ago out of Hewlett Packard’s need to ship fragile beam-lead diodes. HP engineers could not figure out how to ship these very expensive components to their customers.  Gel-Pak’s founder was able to create a specialised carrier with a sticky polymer coated on the bottom of a plastic hinged box that effectively immobilised the diodes protecting them from damage during shipping.    

We then went on the create an entire line of packaging products used globally for protecting high-value semiconductor and optoelectronic devices and ultimately expanded into the medical field among others. 

We found that things like medical, coils, platinum marker bands or fragile micro machined parts needed to be protected during shipping and handling – so medical device manufacturers were very interested in our packaging products. The fact that the polymers used to secure the components were biocompatible meant it was a match made in heaven. 

Over the years, we started leveraging our polymer expertise into films and now offer specialty coated or extruded TPE, TPU, and silicone films. 

Is your work custom based? 

We do have a catalogue of standard parts, but a lot of what we do in film is custom. We do a lot of customer collaboration; a customer will come to us with an issue, and our team will sit down with them and come up with the best way to solve it. For example, a customer might approach us for a film that needed to meet a certain specification. We would work with them on everything from defining the right polymer, the process parameters, as well as any converting that needs to happen to create a product that meets their spec.    

Are there any other benefits of using Gel-Pak? 

On the device carrier side – we protect yields. Medical components are expensive and having them scratch or break during shipping and handling or using packaging that particulates and leaves residue behind on the medical part can have a heavy impact on device quality and yield. The fact that Gel-Pak protects these components actually saves companies money in the long run. 

On the film side, the benefits of using Gel-Pak include the ability to customise. We are also right-sized to help the customer through the development process – from small engineering to high volume manufacturing. The fact that we produce films in a cleanroom environment is also a big plus for medical customers. 

I’d say our most important quality is our willingness to collaborate - we really like to think of ourselves as an extension of our customers’ development team.  

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Publication date: 29/03/2023

Medical Plastics News


This project has received funding from the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 837761.