The rigid needle shield is a protective casing made from synthetic materials that offers significant advantages over other caps and closures currently available to pharma companies, according to Gerresheimer. The cap itself has a hard, semi-transparent plastic shell, with a soft and flexible inner core which protects the syringe needle. The soft core is made of thermoplastic elastomer (TPE), into which the needle sticks to protect it from damage whilst also providing a sterile seal. The plastic cap, which can be easily placed firmly over Gerresheimer's prefillable sterile syringes, can also be easily be replaced after an injection has been administered. This ensures that the delicate needle tip is protected before being used, and health workers are protected from needle-stick injuries and potential infection. The safety cap offers several advantages over other closures, according to Gerresheimer, largely due to the innovative materials and manufacturing processes used. For example, as TPE is a synthetic material, it is unlikely to suffer from supply constraints that could be experienced by rubber-based closures. As rubber is a natural material, any shortage in the natural production of the material could have negative consequences for manufacturers using rubber-based closures in their syringes. TPE is also very pure, whereas other polymers can contain additives. Of course, as the main function of the product is to protect the needle from damage, TPE also fulfils this requirement. "The TPE is in direct contact with the needle and is designed to protect it from damage," Dr Arno Fries of Gerresheimer told in-PharmaTechnologist.com. "The needle tip is very sensitive, even the slightest damage will affect functionality. TPE is very good in this respect, and protects the needle from damage." The manufacturing process used to make the rigid needle shield also adds to the product's attraction. Despite the shell being made of hard, rigid material and the internal layer made of a soft elastomer, the manufacturing process only uses one tool with the product moulded as one unit in a single extrusion process. This leads a very precise production process, and also reduces the quantity of particles present - a major concern for the pharmaceutical industry, said Fries. Gerresheimer has been working on its rigid needle shield for a year or so, and put considerable effort into seeking out industry experts worldwide to research what was needed in the closures market. There was a significant positive response from the pharmaceutical industry to the company's safety shield, to the extent that some companies even admitted that they would be prepared to pay a little over the odds to get their hands on the product. While the safety cap is currently only in use with a handful of pilot companies, the system itself is essentially developed and can be requested by pharma firms for use with their syringe products, marketing director Burkhard Lingenberg told in-PharmaTechnologist.com. The product is hoped to be more widely available within the next year, and although Lingenberg would not by drawn on precise costs, he was quick to point out that the shield was a 'competitive' product, offering distinct advantages over other products and significant added value.