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Minimizing odor to maximize global market opportunities

Specialty vinyl compound enables LIFE Corporation to deliver CPR masks meeting Japanese sensory requirements


The Challenge

How did LIFE Corporation, a U.S. manufacturer of medical devices, successfully expand into the Japanese market by overcoming a critical odor issue?

By Pursuing Perfection

Although LIFE Corporation had been manufacturing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) masks for 25 years, when the company expanded into the Japanese market, a problem arose. Clear, flexible vinyl is typically used to make the CPR mask component that fits over the nose and mouth of the victim to allow mouth-to-mask resuscitation without direct human contact, thus avoiding disease transmission. However, LIFE Corporation discovered that the Japanese are exceptionally sensitive to odors, and found the smell of the vinyl that it was using at the time to be offensive.

Over a number of years, LIFE Corporation experimented unsuccessfully with various types of materials in an attempt to find the right combination of properties. In addition to producing low or no discernable odor, the ideal vinyl formulation had to deliver high clarity and gloss and meet regulatory approvals for medical applications. Solving this challenge could make a major difference in enabling LIFE Corporation to capitalize on market opportunities in Japan.

The Solution

According to company president, John Kirchgeorg, “We tried many different suppliers and finally found PolyOne’s Geon HC flexible vinyl, which produces consistent clarity and flexibility without any detectable effluent odor, a necessity for our LIFE® CPR masks used in all our LIFE® OxygenPac emergency oxygen products.”

PolyOne’s Geon™ HC flexible formulation met or surpassed LIFE Corporation’s stringent requirements. It uses all Food & Drug Administration (FDA)-compliant raw materials and passes United States Pharmacopeia (USP) Class VI testing, giving manufacturers increased confidence that their medical devices will pass all applicable FDA qualification requirements. Further, the material is biocompatible, which is safer for the victim and the first responder, and is sterilizable using ethylene oxide (EtO).

The PolyOne material also enhances mask performance:  its high clarity enables first responders to observe the victim’s condition (breathing, choking) and correct positioning, while its flexibility creates a firm seal around the victim’s face and forms a protective barrier to direct contact.

The Impact

With its odor-free formulation, Geon HC flexible vinyl resolved a longstanding problem that was preventing LIFE Corporation from achieving its business objectives in Japan.

  • No discernable odor = broader market opportunities:  By enabling LIFE Corporation to offer a mask that meets the unique sensory requirements of the Japanese market, Geon HC vinyl compound helped clear the way for successful marketing of its CPR masks in Japan and on a global basis.
  • Meeting customer needs = enhanced corporate reputation:  By eliminating discernable odor from its mask, LIFE Corporation demonstrated its responsiveness to customer needs.
  • High clarity = improved emergency response:  Transparent Geon HC flexible vinyl enables first responders to observe the victim’s condition and correct positioning of the mask.
  • Effective seal and barrier performance = greater safety:  The material's flexibility creates a firm seal around the victim’s face and forms a barrier protecting the first responder from direct human contact.
  • Sterilizability = cost-effectiveness:  The PolyOne material can be sterilized using EtO, allowing the CPR mask to be reused and lowering its per-use cost.

LIFE Corporation met all its material requirements, from the sensory preferences of Japanese customers to performance and regulatory mandates, with the flexible vinyl material.

Kirchgeorg concluded, “The unique characteristics of Geon HC vinyl have allowed us to market our products worldwide and maintain our reputation for preferred, superior products.”

® LIFE OxygenPac is a registered trademark of LIFE Corporation


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