With its origins in rapid prototyping, 3D printing has obvious implications for manufacturers looking to speed time to market and trim costs associated with creating fully functioning models.
Case in point: The U.K.-based company Brightwake recently protoyped its Hemosep autotransfusion machine using 3D printed parts from Stratasys' Dimension 1200es 3D Printer — reducing its prototype costs by 96 percent and saving the company more than £1,000 for each 3D printed model.
The prototype was constructed with a number 3D printed parts, including those used within the main filtration and cooling systems. The parts needed to be both extremely accurate and highly durable, the company said.
For the medically curious, the Hemosep consists of a bag that uses a chemical sponge and a mechanical aggregator to concentrate blood sucked from a surgical site or drained from a heart-lung machine after surgery. The machine then recycles the blood back to the patient via a transfusion.
Steve Cotton, Brightwake's director of Research and Development, said that prior to 3D printing the prototype parts, a three-week delivery lag for outsourced parts slowed down the process.
3D printing has not only enabled us to cut our own costs, it has also been crucial in actually getting a functional device to clinical trials. The ability to 3D print parts that look, feel and perform like the final product, on-the-fly, is the future of medical device manufacturing.
Stratasys bought New York startup MakerBot last year in a $403 million deal and has been been at the front lines in the push to take the technology mainstream. Its industrial footprint includes NASA, BMW and Ducati, but the the company has its sights set on the consumer sector with Makerbot.