Klaudia Kawczyńska from TMR Plastics talks about the background behind entering the medical market, the specifics of this industry, current operations of the company, challenges, as well as plans for the future.
Why have you decided to expand and develop projects for the medical industry?
Our ambitious plans are largely due to the owner of TMR Plastics. Dirk Truyens is a person who is very open to new projects and challenges and this translates into our company’s approach to business. We don’t want to limit ourselves to one particular production line, but use our experience to diversify our activities. Moreover, our debut in this area was a natural consequence of our previous expansion and the development of demanding production technologies for other industries.
How did you get started in this area?
It all began with a Belgian company serving the medical market. In the first stage, however, we were focused on prototypes, so-called „soft tools”, which don’t concern mass production but testing.
I am sure that your experience in other demanding sectors has also helped in this debut.
Yes, especially our know-how from automotive and electronics sectors which are both extremely demanding and require components with the highest standards of precision and product purity. Besides, our company has experience in multi-materials, we are perfectly acquainted with the specificity of highly technical plastics from the middle and higher range. It can be said that from a purely technological point of view, the components manufactured by TMR Plastics have already met medical standards.
Our advantage is also the structure of our company. We are not a multi-level corporation, but a team of specialists who are able to respond quickly to client needs and adapt dynamically to changing conditions. This is particularly important when working with start-ups and also helps us to cooperate with clients during such difficult times as the pandemic.
However, it is important to note that working with clients in the healthcare industry is extremely demanding. It often begins with years of testing and clinical trials – after all, people’s health and lives are at stake here. It’s a joint, multi-year path, and a sudden change of partner to a company that may not uphold the standards developed over the years could end in disaster.
What is the current activity of TMR Plastics on the medical market?
TMR Plastics currently supports one client, a startup, for which we comprehensively implement around 6 products. It is important that we handle a large part of the process – from prototyping, to manufacturing in a controlled environment, to proper packaging and shipping for sterilisation.
For both of us this project is an important lesson, we try to learn from each other and grow together.
And what about the still developing 3D printing technology. Can we consider it your competition, or perhaps you use it in your operations?
We use 3D printing for example for prototyping, as it is a very effective support in the design process. However, 3D printing currently has a number disadvantages that injection moulding technology does not, which disqualify (or at least hinder) the use of products created this way in the medical industry. This is primarily the presence of microleaks, which provide a perfect environment for moulds and all source of contamination.
The methods used by TMR Plastics, such as injection, guarantee the homogeneity of the product. It is a uniform piece of plastic that is much easier to keep clean. Additionally, we can produce them in large quantities, while current 3D printing technologies allow for low-volume production.
Tell us a few words about the main product you have developed.
We are particularly proud of an innovative system for fixing catheters, such as nephrostomy catheters. In this case, production phase is complex and multi-stage: it includes, among other things, proper gluing and ultraviolet light welding of the components.
The origin of the product is also worth attention – it was created in response to the real needs. One of our client’s partners translated his own experience with the disease into a real idea that could support doctors and their patients. The aim is to simplify and standardise the method of fitting catheters. Currently, among medical professionals in the world, there are more than a dozen more or less complicated methods of fixation, which makes it difficult not only for patients, but also for doctors and nurses.
This product is already certified and ready for sale, our client has also signed the first distribution agreements. What is important, after tests in many European institutions, the first feedback is very positive – healthcare professionals have appreciated the potential of this development.
Did you have to pay attention to anything special when manufacturing this product?
First of all, it was an extreme quality control. Every hour, there are tests carried out on the manufactured components – for example „pull tests”. This lets you know whether or not the tube you are holding will eventually come out of the body.
Another challenge was to choose the right materials. At first, we thought about manufacturing with industrial supplies, but due to the growing cooperation and optimistic prospects, we very quickly decided to use medical materials.
During production, two-component technology prevails. This consists of overmoulding one material over another. It took many meetings with suppliers, a lot of research and testing to find the optimal combination.
Does TMR Plastics also design medical products? Do you take an active part in the development of new products?
We are currently at level one, which means that we can create products based on the documentation provided to us. Designing and advising is another level of specialisation – however, it' s a complex process to get there. It is all the more difficult because you are responsible for people’s lives and health. Currently, our company is doing a lot of work to further improve its production processes and become even more successful in this area. This also translates into the development of our team.
And your plans for the future?
We will soon be moving to the Bydgoszcz Industrial and Technological Park, where we will be developing production space for the medical industry, as the one we currently have meets 100% of our current customer’s demand and doesn’t allow us to increase production any further.
In 2021 we also plan to expand our portfolio of certificates – including the ISO 14001 certificate for environmental management, together with ISO 45001 certificate of Safety and occupational hygene. We will be also recertified in our new plant after relocation.
We are also exploring the possibility of entering the aerospace market, where our experience, especially in the automotive and electronics industries, will be helpful. In this case, however, it will be necessary to implement systems that will additionally ensure the elimination of errors – in this market, as in the medical sector, human life and health are also at stake.
TMR Plastics is one of Poland’s fastest growing plastics injection moulding companies. The company specialises in the entire process of producing high-precision injection moulded plastic parts – from concept through customisation to final delivery. Over the years, the company has delivered its products to leading global international players from different sectors such as automotive, electric/electronic, lighting, telecommunications, white goods, and medical.
To learn more about TMR Plastics offer, please visit: https://www.tmr.pl/en/why-tmr/