3D printing has been in use in the medical industry for years. Most people have seen prosthetics that have been 3D printed. Whether it is a prosthetic for cosmetic purposes or a functioning limb, 3D printing has made these easier and quicker to get and coupled with 3D scanning technology, these prosthetics can also be custom tailored to each individual. This is all great and exciting and ultimately 3D printing will continue to advance prosthetic development. In addition to prosthetics, there are other ways in which 3D printing is changing the healthcare industry. In this article, we look at some of those advancements and how medical professionals and patients are benefiting from them.
The Stratasys J750 Digital Anatomy Printer (DAP)
Medical professionals are constantly looking for ways in which to revolutionize procedures and provide innovative solutions to different medical conditions. 3D printing has allowed these professionals to test new ideas and procedures faster and at a lesser price than other methods. To help medical professionals practice their skills and test new ideas, Stratasys has developed a new PolyJet machine, the J750 Digital Anatomy Printer (DAP) designed to 3D print lifelike human anatomies.
With the J750 DAP, hospitals and medical universities can print using materials that feel like human tissue or have the same hardness as bones. It can print damaged tissue ensuring the student is working with a model that is as close to the real human part as possible. This is important on multiple levels. Medical device companies must be able to have their surgical tools and devices validated. Traditionally, this means working with cadavers in order to test these out. There are significant costs that come with using cadavers as they must be bought, stored and disposed. The DAP has shown to offer up to a 70% reduction in cost compared to the use of cadavers) thanks to its ability to print parts with the mechanical feel of the real thing. The value of this is immeasurable when it comes to training future surgeons as their training now costs less for the university and is highly repeatable by printing a new model.
Case Study: Biomechanically Accurate Models at the Jacobs Institute
The Jacobs Institute collaborates with industry experts and physicians to drive innovation for the medical industry. They wanted to find ways in which they could represent the look and feel of human tissue and pathologies to practice different procedures on them. By partnering with Stratasys, and using the J750 DAP, they were able to 3D print exact anatomies for their testing and personalize their prints to meet their patients age to vary the density and feel of these materials.
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Case Study: The Nicklaus Children’s Hospital
At Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami, Dr. Redmond Burke performs pediatric heart surgery. One of his patients, Mia, had a rare heart condition, and by using Stratasys solutions, the hospital was able to create a precise 3D model of his tiny patient’s heart. This helped his team figure out a way in which they could surgically fix the abnormal aortic arch that was challenging to accomplish through traditional surgical methods.
“I’ve seen surgeons get lost doing rare operations like Mia’s. The 3D model allowed me to proceed through Mia’s operation with confidence because I knew her unique anatomy perfectly,” said Dr. Redmond Burke.
Case Study: In-House 3D Printing at Noble International, Inc.
Noble International, Inc. works with the world’s best pharmaceutical and biotech companies to design and manufacture educational training solutions, focused on onboarding and drug delivery. They integrate 3D technologies with in-house processes to produce next-generation pharmaceutical training products with more consistency and less errors.
Noble needed to create different devices, including respirators and injections custom made for their clients. With the help of FDM and PolyJet technologies from Stratasys, the director of the Design Engineering team was able to implement a fast-failure methodology within the team that allowed them to produce numerous designs in the same build to optimize testing and convergence time. This helped them get to market faster as well as save production costs.
Using 3D Printing for Surgical Implants
When it comes to surgical implants, the need grows exponentially for these easy and quick custom devices. Most surgical implants are complex organically formed structures, and with traditional manufacturing techniques are time consuming and expensive. Since 3D printing is additive manufacturing rather than subtractive, these organic shapes are much easier to create from the ground up. Laser scans from the patient also make it possible to fully customize the implants, meaning no two would ever be identical (just like people).
Using digital imaging and the J750 DAP surgeons can now plan their surgeries better than ever. By printing out the patient scans in the appropriate materials they can now practice the procedure the patient needs multiple times before ever operating on the actual person. This gives the doctor insight as to challenges that may lay ahead for each specific patient and develop game plans for dealing with those well ahead of time.
Choosing the right material for your model can be one of the more challenging steps in the printing process. The DAP simplifies this process further with the Digital Anatomy Software. This allows the user to print a model based on its anatomy rather than the material. The DAP incorporates three distinct materials to create models from:
- BoneMatrix: High toughness to imitate connective tissue and bone
- GelMatrix: Gel support that allows for unattended cleaning of blood vessels
- TissueMatrix: Softest material in the industry to replicate delicate heart tissue
The J750 DAP-specific materials enable users to replicate healthy and diseased tissue while simulating accurate blood flow. These materials come together to create an amazing array of possibilities for the medical community.
As technology continues to advance in the medical world, 3D printing is here to stay. Thanks to advancements like the J750 DAP, doctors and medical professionals can train and plan better than ever, meaning fewer mistakes in the operating room and ultimately more lives saved.
Interested in learning more about how 3D printing for the healthcare industry is advancing? Watch our unique panel discussion style webinar with three of our application engineers to hear their take on the influences of the technology.