Adding Fabrication Capabilities: Additive Manufacturing for Production Parts
Rapid advances in additive manufacturing/3D printing (AM/3DP) have taken these technologies to the point where medical device companies can produce highly functional and durable metal and polymer components that deliver outstanding performance in the medical end-use environment. AM can simplify complex designs (fewer parts, fewer steps) and utilize new material configurations and alloys. AM-derived products can also comply with current requirements and regulations for testing and validation.
Because of these advances in equipment and materials, forward-thinking medical device manufacturers (MDMs) have made significant investments in additive manufacturing, intent on being first to market with creative new devices that cover a wide range of innovative applications. AM has seen the greatest acceptance in the orthopedic market, especially for creating implantable devices with porous or roughened surfaces that aid osseointegration, as well as disposable surgical guides and bone/anatomy models. Patient-specific implants are also being produced, using detailed imaging data. Spinal companies have also been quick to adopt these additive manufacturing techniques.
AM is perhaps the greatest driver of innovation in the medical device industry. The economics of AM have improved to the point where AM is more affordable and can be used to make a wider range of products, beyond the high-value, low-volume, niche applications they currently fabricate. The ability to produce intricate parts through AM, which cannot be made with traditional machining methods, has opened up huge opportunities for new applications, allowing engineers to think big and bold in the race to be first to market with innovative products.
Read this Medical Product Outsourcing article to hear from a number of industry experts, including Excelitas' OmniCure Senior Product Manager Pamela Lee. Pamela shares her insights on how developments in printers, materials, and know-how are advancing additive manufacturing and 3D printing to offer production-ready functionality for medical device makers.