The medical industry is no stranger to new technology, and one of the newest developments to come is three-dimensional printing.
“Three-dimensional printing is shaping our future, especially in the medical industry,” wrote Matt Hlavin for OnlineTMD.com. “Although 3D printing was invented more than 30 years ago, investment in the technology has soared in recent years as more and more companies see its potential to drive a new industrial revolution – one that enables businesses to get products to market faster than traditional manufacturing.”
Three-dimensional printing isn’t exactly a commonly used technology in the medical field yet. But that could soon change as it is already in use in some ways.
Hlavin reports the following 3 facts about three-dimensional printing in the medical field:
- The medical industry uses 3D printing in many ways. For example, rp+m has printed skulls for surgeons around the world. They will send us a patient’s CT scan file and we will export those images into CAD software that our 3D printers can read and print. Doctors will use the skull prior to surgery to understand exact size and location, which will ultimately save time during procedures as well as reduce the opportunity for error.
- JALEX Medical, uses 3D printing technology so customers can get products to market faster. Recently, engineers at JALEX designed a surgical tool based on an idea from a surgeon. With the 3D technology, we were able to print the tool, allowing the developer to hold, touch, and feel the idea in early product stages. The engineers designed and customized the medical tool exactly the way the surgeon requested. As our experts talk with doctors and surgeons, they work in CAD software to take ideas and create models. In order to ensure the surgical tool fits and functions exactly they way the surgeon wants, we can quickly 3D print or additively manufacture one-offs of the device. If a dimension needs changing, we will make the alteration in the software and create a new prototype, saving time and money before production.
- rp+m collaborated with ExOne to create a material that has never been 3D printed before. In the past, similar material has been injection molded at Avon Lake, Ohio-based Thogus, another rp+m sister company, but customers couldn’t justify upfront tooling costs if they only needed 50 to100 parts per year. The tungsten material can shield radiation in body imaging equipment without the need for lead, while keeping the same density. Lead is a hazardous material and the Restriction on Hazardous Substances Directive in Europe will soon limit or ban its use there. Reports show the United States will soon follow.
“As the technology progresses and new material classes develop – including biomaterials, polymers, and metals – we will see applications and markets grow,” OnlineMTD.com reports. “Dr. Ed Herderick, director of R&D at rp+m, sees a new paradigm for manufacturing by design. Companies in the additive industry are coming together to create, develop, and test new materials and processes, so the implantable devices and 3D printing organs sectors continue to inflate. In the near future, our team expects doctors and surgeons to 3D print every hip cup or knee replacement so it is completely customized to the patient’s own bone structure.”
“The materials and processes for 3D manufacturing will continue to mature to the point where a new paradigm of manufacturing by design will emerge to replace the current paradigm of design for manufacturing processes,” Herderick says. “This will empower designers of engineering systems to create their machines and components with full freedom to choose approaches based on the end use performance criteria rather than limitations of manufacturing processes. As a result, new product designs will increasingly mimic the elegant design of nature maximizing performance and design content while minimizing waste. In the future, designers may use nature-inspired design to develop lighter, more streamlined parts and products, and increase efficiencies in industries such as oil and gas drilling, and aerospace.”
The medical industry is constantly changing and growing, and healthcare employers are looking for medical assistants who can change and grow with it. A Technical College offers a medical assistant training program that is designed to equip students with the skills and experience today’s employers are looking for.