While still evolving, 3D printing has largely impacted how R&D departments, research labs and product development teams approach medical device manufacturing. In Part 1 of our three-part blog series, we talk about how 3D printing helps customize prosthetics, orthotics and bionics. In Part 2, we outline how it's used in different stages of medical device development and is advancing biomedical engineering and the healthcare industry.
Why the need for 3D printing in healthcare?
The Population Reference Bureau estimates that Americans ages 65 and older will more than double from 46 million today to over 98 million by 2060. As the number of patients required to self-administer medications increases, education and training solutions demand a greater level of customization. Not only can 3D printing improve patient care, but it can also reduce costs and increase speed at every step in the medical device value chain (click to enlarge).
Medical Device Value Chain
Research & Development
Researchers and developers are able to prototype surgical tools faster through rapid iterations, reduce tooling costs by 60-75% and accelerate overall product development. Rather than taking eight weeks to produce a final device, 3D printers allow rapid product development which only takes days.
Meanwhile, during the preclinical testing phase, 3D printers can be used to make realistic and custom models using real patient anatomy and conduct tests in any environment. Below is an example of how Stratasys solutions helped design more clinically relevant validation models and enhance product development.
Additive manufacturing is a great alternative to traditional methods when it comes to producing low-volume, high-value medical devices and components. Having a Stratasys 3D printer in-house allows hospitals to eliminate expensive tooling for parts that don't need injection molding and protect confidential client data. They produce organic, complex geometries that otherwise couldn't be manufactured. Clinical trials and pilot commercial launches can create fit-for-purpose tools, jigs and fixtures for up to 30-50% the cost and 90% faster than outsourcing.
Physician Education & Clinical Training
Traditionally, clinical training uses animals, cadavers and mannequins for testing. All of these options come with limitations because they have approximate anatomy or pathology, are difficult to obtain or are expensive. 3D printers can provide more accurate training on patient specific anatomy as well as simulate tissue properties and blood flow. Surgeons can use multi-material models for pre-surgical planning, practicing operations, optimizing their therapeutic approach or gaining unobstructed views as well as medical-grade materials for sterilization.
Download our case study to see how Noble International uses a Stratasys Mojo and Objet 30Pro to create custom respiratory, injection and healthcare devices.