Avoiding the problems with antimicrobial ABS…

ABS is one of the most commonly used polymers among our customers. While it can be a straightforward material from an antimicrobial perspective, there are a number of important considerations. We will work with you to ensure optimum performance in the grade you use.

ABS is a used in a very broad range of applications and there are many that will potentially benefit from the use of antimicrobial additives, to reduce the growth of bacteria and mould.

  • Remote control handsets
  • Electronic equipment enclosures
  • Computer keyboards & mice
  • Keypads & switches
  • Kitchen utensils
  • Musical instruments
  • Toys
Icon Lifesaver Liberty drinking bottle with SteriTouch

The compositional variations between different grades of ABS necessitate antimicrobial testing in each grade that might be used in production, but there are a number of other considerations.

Probably the most common and most often encountered issue is with halogenated flame retardants. In essence, these will react with silver based antimicrobial additives, reducing or even negating the antimicrobial properties. In many instances, introducing a silver based additive to a V0 rated ABS will result in a moulding/extrusion that is neither antimicrobial nor flame retardant. Again, there are ways to mitigate this effect, but the most efficient solution is to switch to a non-halogenated flame retardant.

As with all materials, another consideration is the potential interaction of pigments with the antimicrobial additive. This is relatively uncommon, but some pigments (e.g. sulphur containing blue, or chlorinated green) can adversely affect the antimicrobial performance. For this reason, it is important to conduct antimicrobial testing on each colour variant.

It is generally also recommended to test for changes in chemical & physical properties such as tensile or impact strength, as well as the effects of external factors such as pH, moisture, temperature and UV light.

Understanding the impact of functional additives

Whilst it is always encouraging to see the positive effects of functional additives on the antimicrobial performance of a polymer solution, it is also important for many final applications to consider how the use of such additives might affect the overall mechanical performance of the base polymer.


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