What is Plastic Tubing?

Plastic tubing can be used in a variety of medical and research applications. It connects medical devices to other devices that transfer or read information, or simply deliver fluids, gas, etc. from one location to another. Plastic tubing comes in a variety of layers and sizes, depending on the application. 

Medical-Grade Plastic Tubing Ratings

When purchasing medical-grade plastic tubing, or any medical product, you should be concerned with the safety and performance of the product, and judge/pick the product according to your specific tube needs.

Safety

Check the following safety rating before purchasing your plastic tubing.

  • USP Class VI – set of guidelines in the U.S. is set by the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) as a base for all medical-grade equipment and devices. This test checks for biochemical compatibility, inertness, leaching, and toxicity in relation to the material suitability and compatibility of medical devices.
  • FDA – the Food and Drug Administration has certain standards for specific-use items, including medical tubes, that typically fall in line with USP Class VI
  • Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) and Current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) these are the two most common types of manufacturing standards around. The United States and other countries set their own standards as far as medical equipment goes, so it will vary by region. One thing to keep in mind is just because a tube may meet the required specifications, they will not be GMP certified unless they were manufactured following GMP guidelines.
  • ISO (International Standards Organization) 10993 – this set of standards was created when evaluating the biocompatibility of medical devices prior to a clinical study/trial.

Performance

Safety isn’t the only factor you should consider. You’ll also need to make sure the product will take the wear and tear of your application. 

Check the following before making a purchase: 

  • Pressure – you’ll want to check the minimum and maximum pressure rating of the plastic tube to make sure it exceeds the minimum operating pressure of the medical device. This is measured in psi or pounds per square inch. This is important information to prevent the tube from rupturing.
  • Vacuum – another important pressure-related measurement you’ll want to be on top of is the maximum vacuum pressure that can be created inside the tube, which is often given in inches or millimeters. Keep this in mind to prevent the plastic tube from collapsing into itself.
  • Bend Radius – The bend radius measures the flexibility of the plastic tube. The smaller the minimum bend radius (given in inches or millimeters), the greater the flexibility. Knowing this will help prevent kinks and other permanent deformations.
  • Temperature Range – this defines the [ambient] temperature range the tube can handle during normal operation, preventing premature failure such as melting or stretching.

Plastic Tubing Overview

Plastic tubing comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, and even layers. Which one you need depends on your specific application, as there are no universal tubes (e.g. you wouldn’t use fuel tubing in a medical setting). Before you purchase your plastic tubing, make sure to do some research regarding the function and use of the product, as well as safety and performance certificates they carry. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the medical field, conducting research, or using plastic tubing for personal projects, there is a tube that will fit your specifications.