In recent years additive manufacturing has taken on an essential role in the medical field. From helping develop new equipment, to creating realistic models of unique conditions and printing simulations for students, 3D printing has improved practitioners’ processes. For those who fully utilize the technology, additive has become crucial for everyday care. Going forward, I’ll cover a few topics that I feel made an impactful difference in users’ everyday lives.
Fulfilled with FDM
As a new company, Quality Electronics, LLC. (QED) initially focused on the manufacturing and design of MRI radiofrequency (RF) coil tech for MRI equipment manufacturers. Their first product was designing custom coil housings. To optimize product design, they needed to test various ideas quickly. The most time-effective, cost-efficient solution? A Fortus 3D Production System.
Due to their innovative workflow and quick prototype to final product lead times, QED landed clients like Toshiba, the tech giant. Over the past 16 years, QED has utilized their FDM printer to become a global leader in advanced medical equipment electronics.
As they began using FDM, QED discovered new ways to use the technology. Now, they now use additive for more than just prototyping housings. The company uses the accuracy of FDM to create, “the internal mounting fixtures inside the housing,” said Peter Byrnes, Purchasing Team Leader at QED, “think of a post of a C-clamp you would put on the edge of something and screw it down to hold it in place to be used as a guide so that the wires travel a certain path.”
They also print production fixtures, the trays used to carry and protect the assemblies as they move around the manufacturing floor. “We have 81 different production fixtures we print in-house,” Byrnes said. “Instead of going outside to buy plastics, and ones not tailored to our needs, we can design and print them in-house.”
The adaptability of 3D printing isn’t only benefit, says Byrnes, “Going back and looking over costs, we see a 15-75% cost savings with 3D printing in our MRI cover prototyping and fixtures. It’s an extraordinary amount of savings and they’d be cost-prohibitive if we couldn’t print them in-house.”
Currently QED has seven Fortus 3D printers in-house. “Having this array of 3D printers is immensely helpful for verifying designs and testing out early prototypes in order to arrive at the design we want to move forward with,” said Paul Taylor, Design Engineer. “Four design iterations can amount to several months of time without 3D printing. Now, we could have the part in maybe three days as opposed to three weeks if we had to have it machined.”
QED saw the benefits of their original Fortus printer, invested into the space, and are benefitting from those investments. Additive technology has proven to improve the ability to create custom end-use parts, while cutting down on lead times.
Providing with PolyJet
The Medical Director of the Center for Medical Simulation and Education, at a Florida Pediatric Hospital, is a huge advocate for using 3D printing as a point-of-care tool. The hospital’s goal was for additive to be used as “a tool to help improve outcomes for patients and improve the education for clinicians.”
To support this, the Simulation Center invested in a J750 Digital Anatomy Printer (DAP). The choice was plain to see, as the J750 DAP printer can print incredibly realistic anatomical models. To complement the printing capabilities of the J750 DAP, the hospital invested in Stratasys-developed materials to simulate human bone and tissue. The machine’s software optimizes the materials, making over 100 sophisticated anatomical presets, producing clinically approved realism, in both feel and biomechanical performance.
Using the Advanced BoneMatrix, the printer operator made skull and spine models to show medical staff the machine’s capabilities. The doctors were surprised, saying the models were a very realistic simulation of working with real bone. Standard bone models don’t achieve the same hardness or resistance as real bone. But, with Advanced BoneMatrix, the model was difficult “to drill into, it as it would be with actual bone.”
Training with the Stratasys’ printed models gave the doctors a realistic simulation of complex and delicate procedures. The Medical Director explains, “You must know your site locations, where you can drill and where you cannot. It’s the physical landmarks that you’re getting used to. That’s the benefit of printing these models, so you can really practice your landmarks.”
The Director emphasized the importance of simulating unique procedures with 3D printed models. At the Children’s Hospital, “there’s always a higher level of complexity. Kids are born with very rare, unique, individualized diagnoses and complications, and 3D printing is kind of perfect for that.”
With the J750 DAP, doctors can, “make skin and soft tissue and bones, and [can] potentially create a trainer so that [fellows] don’t have to perform the procedure for the first time on a tiny 500-gram (17 ounce) baby.” Industrial-grade 3D printing will “decrease morbidity and mortality and help us decrease anesthesia time, which is better for brain development.”
Other simulator manufacturers don’t have pediatric models that meet surgeons’ training needs. 3D printing fills that void. The Medical Director says it’s “because 3D printing provides a view and a tactile experience, especially with [the J750 DAP] printing the soft and hard materials, the opportunities seem endless to me because [doctors] can operate before they operate.”
The team at the Florida Simulation Center has seen the benefits of utilizing Stratasys technology. They’ve seen how impressive the material capabilities are, and the benefit 3D printing models bring. Additive can not only be used as a tool for design and manufacturing, but also for practical uses in medical.
Every step of the way, Stratasys has the technology to support you, from strong parts for end-use manufacturing needs, to life-like simulations for medical training. It all depends on your needs and the gaps in your workflow.
Meet Saxon Swart
Meet Purple Platypus Marketing Specialist, Saxon Swart. Saxon helps the marketing team with website, photo, and video content. His favorite part about working at Purple is the friendly office environment.
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