Aug 1, 2017 | By Benedict

UK company Torc2 has developed a world-first form of 3D printable plastic that could change the way limb injuries and conditions are treated. The compound can be re-shaped at temperatures that are safe for patients.

3D printing has been used in the medical sphere for several years. With additive manufacturing technologies to hand, medical professionals can create 3D printed implants, splints, and other devices that are tailor-made for individual patients, ensuring a perfect fit and high level of comfort.

But no matter how accurately a doctor measures a patient’s body before making a 3D printed device, there’s always the possibility that the body will change in some way after the device is made. Doctors could make a new device, but that’s not always possible—and it always comes at a cost.

That’s why a world-first plastic developed by UK company Torc2 could be so important. The flexible, durable, 3D printable compound can be reshaped at low temperatures, which means that 3D printed medical devices made from the material could be altered whilst on the patient’s body.

The material, a thermoplastics compound, is solid at 37°C (normal body temperature), but easily malleable at a temperature of around 55°C.

The plastic was developed as a potential replacement for Plaster of Paris casts, but eventually morphed into a different beast altogether as its creators saw how it could be used to make devices such as splints and supports for the treatment of Cerebral Palsy and Hip Dysplasia. The plastic is also suitable for re-shapable liners for lower limb prosthetics.

“The key property of our torc material is the fact it can be softened at low temperatures,” Torc2’s Gary Blundell explained. “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.”

All of these advantages could be hugely appealing to the British National Health Service (NHS), which would be able to cut its expenditure on splints and similar devices if it could use a single, re-shapable device instead of several.

Blundell’s company, based in the west Midlands city of Coventry, recently secured a grant from Coventry City Council under the Coventry & Warwickshire Innovation Programme, becoming the first SME to do so. The funding will be used to assist product development and manufacturing.

According to Torc2, the development of the re-shapable plastic was made possible with the input of several external parties.

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

The 3D printed material isn’t limited to Cerebral Palsy and Hip Dysplasia cases, either. Already, Torc2 can see numerous uses for its revolutionary plastic, while more possibilities could open up as the material is developed further.

“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,” Blundell said. “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.”

Torc2 is currently planning to upscale its laboratory micro 3D printing process to enable production of full-size devices for clinical trials. It has protected the IP on the material as well as a new process for manipulating it. The company hopes that someday all hospitals in the UK could have their own torc production systems for making re-shapable medical devices.

“By developing the system fully we have an opportunity to look at supplying orthopedic centers with the complete package needed to transform the way that vital orthotics services are delivered both in the UK and globally,” Blundell said.



Posted in 3D Printing Materials



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Max wrote at 8/3/2017 12:29:10 PM:

PCL is on the market for years, also used in surgery implants.

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