Innovations in 3D Printing continued
Michigan Company Calls Upon Stratasys For New Dimensions of Care
by Rebecca Metcalf
Can you imagine the excitement that Benjamin Franklin felt when he discovered electricity? Many professionals feel the same way about the 3D (three-dimensional) printer. This modern marvel allows the medical field countless opportunities for human ingenuity and innovation.
Basically, the printer transforms a 3D design into a concrete object, layer by layer. A wide variety of materials can be used to create the item. Examples range from plastic to titanium to a variety of resins. This versatile invention allows for imagination and creativity in practical, real life applications, especially within the health industry.
In order to understand this complex creation, Michigan Medical Innovations reached out to Stratasys, a company that has been at the forefront of 3D printing innovation for more than 25 years. In addition to the wide range of products they offer, their approach to customer service is notable. The corporation caters to industries worldwide; their representatives are passionate and proud of their accomplishments.
The Stratasys website offers 3D printing case studies, cutting edge printers, consulting and Webinars. They offer an expansive array of materials that are used for concept modeling, prototyping, certification testing and production. Links to material safety data sheets and test reports are provided. Besides serving the Medical Device Prototyping Industry, Stratasys is involved in aerospace, architecture, automotive, commercial products prototyping, dental, consumer products prototyping, education, entertainment, and defense industries. There are a variety of events such as simulations, lab days and an art show listed on the Events page.
Despite Stratasys’ long standing presence in the 3D printing market, their most popular printer has been available for less than a year. The Stratasys ™ is known for creating lifelike medical models. Stratasys representative, Michael Gaisford, explained that “it is able to print six materials simultaneously and mix those materials digitally in order to replicate different textures and colors within a single printed model.
“For example, you can print a rigid white bone, surrounded by flexible colored muscle and tendon. You can use transparent materials to see the internal structures that are hidden in the living tissue. The very high resolution of the printer (layers as thin as 14 microns), allows the printer to recreate fine anatomical structures like the bones and passageways in the sinus or ear drum,” said Gaisford.
“While the Stratasys itself an amazing innovation, it is what our customers do with the models that is truly expanding the horizon of medicine,” he continued. The Center for Biomedical & Technology Integration is using the machine to simulate possible procedures surgeons might encounter, so they are prepared for complex challenges.
3D printers prepare surgeons in remarkable ways, but also make the specialists’ jobs more ergonomic. The devices produce lightweight tools that are easier to manipulate. Thanks to this innovation, doctors can improve the quality of life for their patients and, in many cases, save lives. Researchers’ work is enhanced because they can print cells in a more systematic and effective way.
Patients benefit from 3D printers because they are customizable. Biodegradable implants, ankle replacements, casts and airway splints that grow with babies’ bodies are just a few examples. Pills, too, can be customized. This allows for unique shapes that give drug manufacturers more control over how a medicine is time-released into the body.
As the 3D printing becomes accepted by the public, the technology improves. Machines are becoming faster and providing cost-effective solutions to many challenges facing the medical field. Called “additive manufacturing,” the machines add material, versus removing it by drilling or cutting away. Therefore, there is less waste. Since materials can be quickly produced, children who rapidly outgrow accommodations like prosthetics benefit from this cost saver. 3D printers are quite common in poverty stricken parts of the world, because they are so economical.
As doctors explore this new frontier, precision will be a catalyst for change. Whether this exactitude allows for an intricately crafted heart ventricle patch to save a 2-year-old’s life, or allows researchers to create bionic parts, it is a driving force. Scientists have speculated on the probability of creating functioning complex organs; new materials can be utilized in efforts to make more durable and cost-effective products. For example, a recent Ted Talk was delivered on the possibility of printing pills at home with chemical ink.
Innovators like Stratasys become vanguards when they seize a vision for a market that has potential, and stand their ground despite skepticism. It is important to remain competitive and motivated as the 3D printing industry progresses. What is inspirational about Stratasys is their passion for allowing medical professionals the space to create new ways to utilize their products. They push leaders in the direction of discovery.
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