How 3D Printing is Transforming Healthcare
August 2nd, 2016
Next month, the co-located MD&M and PLASTEC Minneapolis trade show and conference will include a special focus on 3D printing for the creation of medical devices. At the conference, Derek Mathers, Director of R&D at Worrell Inc., a Minneapolis-based design firm, is part of a panel that has been convened to answer the question: “Can we really use 3D printing to make medical devices?” In advance of the event, PlasticsToday posed that same question to Mathers. Not surprisingly, he answered, “Yes, we can.” In fact, there are many reasons why 3D printing is intrinsically well suited to medical device design and manufacture.
“3D printing is, hands down, the best method for creating a structure for the human body,” said Mathers. “Since the human body is a bespoke mechanical, chemical and electrical organism, it requires a manufacturing method that can easily build for these requirements.”
Mathers believes that, as a medical community, we can now 3D print conductive inks using Voxel8, Optomec, and Nanodimension products. We can also print active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) for precise drug-release characteristics using powders, liquid photopolymers and filament. And, as proven by more than 85 medical devices approved by FDA in which 3D printing plays a role, we can print durable, porous mechanical structures for implantation into the most critical places in the human body.
Here, Mathers profiles for PlasticsToday some of the breakthroughs in 3D printing that, he believes, are destined to have a profound impact on medical technology.
PEKK-based 3D-printed bones even better than the real thing
“I think the world is going to be very impressed with Oxford Performance Materials Biomedical (OPM; South Windsor, CT), which uses polyetherketoneketone (PEKK) to print bone implants,” said Mathers. As reported in PlasticsToday in August 2015, OPM received 510(k) clearance from FDA for its SpineFab system, a load-bearing polymer device designed to replace a collapsed, damaged or unstable vertebral body. At the time, it was the first and only FDA-cleared 3D-printed device of its kind. Much has happened since then.
Mathers believes that the company is headed by an inspiring and talented leader—Severine Valdant Zygmont—a chemical engineer by training, and it now has approvals for cranial, facial and spinal implants. The company’s strategy is to move through the body and get more approvals for PEKK-based 3D-printed bone implants. Not only are these artificial bones stronger than human bones…