Phone: (217) 529-4280 Fax: (217) 529-5390
Web site: www. thermipaq.com
Key contact: Jay Bush, vice president of sales (479) 936-4000
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- From Mylar to Velcro, the NASA space program has been the source of a variety of technological breakthroughs that have found their way into consumer products.
For those with chronic pain, however, none has been so significant as Thermionics Corp.'s innovative utilization of a substance the company's president sometimes refers to simply as "mud."
The mud in question is actually a soft and pliable ceramic material capable of absorbing heat through microwaves and retaining it for an extended periods. The clay-based substance, now trade-named Theramics, also retains cold when placed in a freezer.
While Thermionics has found a number of different uses for Theramics in consumer-product applications, the most successful and significant has been in the area of pain relief.
"Our Thermipaq hot and cold therapy packs are our best-selling items," says Gregg Harwood, president of Thermionics. "Theramics has properties related to heat and cold retention and radiation that differ from those of materials in other types of hot and cold packs, and that provides significant benefits to Thermipaq users."
The company holds several patents, all in the area of thermal ceramics, and it develops items that leverage the material's advantages. Chief among them, Harwood says, is that thermal ceramics hold heat better than other materials, such as gel packs.
Another advantage is the way in which Theramics transfers heat.
"Most transfer methods heat up the skin and the skin heats the muscles and tissues underneath it, which can cause skin burn," Harwood explains. "Thermipaq transfers heat radiantly. It does it slowly, deeply and evenly--without hot spots--so it works better for pain relief."
The thermal ceramic material is moldable, malleable and contouring, so it can be fitted to any part of the body. "Our product will not saddlebag or stiffen. It doesn't get runny when hot or hard when cold," Harwood says. "It has the consistency of peanut butter, and it stays that way all the time."
Thermionics was incorporated 15 years ago, but it functioned primarily as a private label supplier and distributor during its first decade of existence. "About four years ago we decided to go in another direction and develop direct relationships with retailers," Harwood says. "That allows us to focus on the technology and offer lower price points."
Part of that effort involves a consumer education initiative regarding the use of external application of hot and cold therapy for pain relief.
Thermionics has developed a consumer-education brochure that addresses such issues as how long the treatment should be applied and when to use heat and when to use cold.
It includes the brochure in its packaging and offers it via on-shelf display fixtures. "The value of the brochure is the consumer-education aspect," Harwood says.
"That is where the greatest opportunity exists for retailers in this category, especially in the sports medicine and arthritis segments. Most of what's out there right now focuses on the features of the product being sold, but what consumers are interested in are the features of their pain. Our particular focus is on a premium-performing product for the longterm chronic pain sufferer. That is what we do incredibly well."
Other Thermionics items in the pain relief category include ThermiBeads, which provides moist heat therapy and soothing cold in a single unit, and Thermipaq Red Ice, portable hot and cold packs.