UK start-up creates world-first form of plastic

Posted on 31 Jul 2017 by Jonny Williamson

torc2 has developed a new form of plastic that has the potential to revolutionise the way limb conditions and injuries are treated.

Plastic - The torc polymer blend in various forms (1) granules (2) plaques (various colours) & (3) miniature prototype model produced on a modified laboratory 3D printer - image courtesy of torc2.
The torc polymer blend in various forms: granules, plaques (various colours) & a miniature prototype model produced on a modified laboratory 3D printer – image courtesy of torc2.

The cutting-edge Coventry-based company has protected the intellectual property on the material, as well as a new process method using its flexible, durable compound that can be re-shaped at temperatures safe for patients.

The new plastic was originally developed as a potential replacement for Plaster of Paris casts; however, attention was turned to devices such as splints and supports for the treatment of Cerebral Palsy and Hip Dysplasia (among others), and liners that can be reshaped for lower limb prosthetics.

torc2 recently secured a grant from Coventry City Council under the Coventry & Warwickshire Innovation Programme to assist in further product development and the manufacturing process behind it, and is reportedly the first SME to be awarded a grant through the programme.

The company’s Gary Blundell explained: “The key property of our torc material is the fact it can be softened at low temperatures. It can be reshaped directly on the patient at around 55-degrees and, therefore, the types of products we are looking at can be altered to exactly fit the patient very quickly, easily and without waste.

“When we talked to orthopaedic experts in the field, they liked the concept around Plaster of Paris but said it wasn’t an area of particular concern. Instead they recommended that we look into other applications that could provide both cost-savings for the NHS and a far better patient experience.

“There is a whole range of supports and splints required for a number of conditions, many of which have to be changed and altered regularly – the properties within torc material allows that to happen very quickly and easily. In some cases, Spica casts being a typical example, it can cut out the need for extra trips to the operating theatre – which is a huge cost saving to the NHS and much better for the patient.”

According to Blundell, the next phase for torc2 is to upscale the current lab micro 3D printing process to enable production of full size devices for clinical trials.

Jeremy Moore, of the CWLEP Growth Hub, commented: “From my first conversations with Gary and Ron, I could see the passion they have for this exciting new material. They are doing exactly the right thing too by listening to the advice of experts from the medical profession.”