Stratasys launches BioMimics, aims to bolster medical training, cut cadaver costs

Stratasys aims to create the equivalent of a flight simulator for the medical device and training industry by 3D printing life-like bones, hearts, and vascular systems. The ROI could be dramatically lower cadaver costs.

Video: Stratasys' BioMimics can 3D-print bones and hearts for physician training

Stratasys has launched an effort called BioMimics, which couples 3D printing, various materials and services to create lifelike anatomical structures for training physicians and medical testing.

The company said it developed BioMimics with researchers and manufacturers to offer bone and heart models with plans to launch vascular structures in early 2018.

Typically, physician training revolved around animal, mannequin or cadaver models. Stratasys' multi-material 3D printing mirrors soft tissue and bones and eliminates the need for cadavers and the associated costs.

Stratasys' BioMimics, sold through services unit Stratasys Direct Manufacturing, is another example of how 3D printer and additive manufacturing vendors are targeting specific industries such as automotive, healthcare and manufacturing. 3D Systems has pivoted to focus on verticals and HP is taking a similar approach. The industry-specific approach is a well-worn strategy in enterprise software and technology.

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BioMimics will combine Stratasys' PolyJet 3D technology as well as multiple materials. The general aim is to match what medical pros will see in real scenarios. BioMimics will be able to replicate hearts, bones, the spine and its discs and ligaments. On the vascular front, BioMimics can go custom to replicated a diseased vessel of a 50 year old with calcification and plaque. Hearts will be available in a full range of conditions from adults to pediatric patients.

Mike Gaisford, Stratasys Director of Healthcare Solutions, said in an interview that BioMimics will be able to replicate patient specific anatomy with realism. "We want to give health care the training and education ability similar to a flight simulator where you can practice thousands of times," said Gaisford.

Here's a look at a few BioMimics models:

biomimics1.jpg
biomimics2.jpg

The other potential win for healthcare is that the BioMimics approach can provide new training tools that aren't available today. For instance, the medical industry has to scan cadavers to find the right scenario for training.

Read also: 3D Systems shares fall on disappointing Q3 results | 3D Systems steps up vertical, industry focus with purchase of Vertex

As for the economics, BioMimics could deliver real return on investment. Some of the variables outlined by Gaisford include:

  • Travel costs to a facility for training on a medical device or procedure.
  • A cadaver can run $1,000 to as much as $3,000 and there are disposal fees that can run $5,000.
  • Clean-up costs and materials.
  • Facility rentals.

Early customers and development partners include The Jacobs Institute, SickKids, a top pediatric hospital in Canada, and the University of Toronto.

The plan for Stratasys is to partner with medical device companies, medical schools and researchers to develop BioMimics use cases. "The idea for BioMimics has been floating around as we developed multiple materials and refined texture. About a year ago, we chose to focus on this," explained Gaisford. "When we showed some concepts you could see the excitement elicited."

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