Polyimide to Polyamide: Exploring MedTech Materials with Co-Founder Katie Karmelek

By Chamfr Team
March 12, 2024

Co-founder of Chamfr, Katie Karmelek is a seasoned engineer with a passion for innovation in the medical device industry. With almost two decade of experience, she has established herself as a leading expert in materials, components, and design trends for medical device product development. Connect with Katie on LinkedIn to stay updated on the latest advancements and discussions shaping the future of medtech engineering.

I recently had a great conversation with another engineer about when to use polyimide tubing over other thermoplastics or engineered polymer extrusions. The good ol’ polyimide vs polyamide debate! Thought others might be interested so wanted to share my thoughts.

Okay, polyimide is like the superhero of tubing materials. 

  • It’s super tough especially with ultra thin walls, can handle really hot temperatures, and doesn’t get impacted by chemicals. 
  • It’s an excellent insulator but it doesn’t like to be bonded to anything, so it makes the manufacturing process more complicated. 
  • It’s not an extrusion which comes back to the way the tubing is made. It’s created essentially by dipping a wire into a solution which adds a super thin layer of polyimide and then you heat it up to cure it. The process of layering over and over builds up the wall and creates the tube as the end result. 

On the other hand, commonly used thermoplastics or engineered polymers (such as polyamides) in medical applications including nylon, polyurethane, polypropylene, Pebax and PEEK are extruded to create the tube meaning they are melted down and “extruded” or pushed through a die to make the tube. These materials encompass a much larger range of performance characteristics which make them really adaptable to various design requirements such as flexibility or torque response and are often more cost-effective. 

Short story is that picking between polyimide and thermoplastics/engineered polymers really depends on what you need the tubing for. If you need something super strong and thin, polyimide is your go-to. But if you’re looking for something versatile and cost-effective, thermoplastics are where it’s at. 

It’s all about pushing the boundaries of what we can do in medical devices and making sure we’re using the best materials for the job. And hey, who knew tubing could be so interesting? I’d be remiss not to mention that you can source from over 1,000 polymer tubes in-stock and ready to ship from Chamfr including polyimide, nylons, Pebax, PTFE, HDPE, silicone, and so much more! If there’s other polymers that you’d like our team to add to our site feel free to email me your suggestions.