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How the Latest Innovations in 3D Printing Technology are Changing the Healthcare Industry

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Ido Bitan - July 20, 2022
Ido Bitan - July 20, 2022

How the Latest Innovations in 3D Printing Technology are Changing the Healthcare Industry.

 

Based on a recent webinar featuring: 

  • Justin Ryan, Ph.D., the Director and Research Scientist of the Webster Foundation 3D Innovations Lab at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego 

  • Varun Bhatia, Ph.D., a Principal Scientist at Medtronic 

  • Jessica Coughlin, the Director of Healthcare Market Access at Stratasys 

 

 

 

Quotes have been edited for clarity.

Varun Bhatia serves as a Senior Principal Scientist at Medtronic, a global leader in medical solutions. Leveraging his background in biomechanics, medical imaging, and 3D printing, Bhatia spends his days quantifying anatomical variations and using that information to design medical devices for new procedures. Medtronic uses 3D print technology to create the anatomy models for procedure and device development, testing, and training and education. 

 

Justin Ryan runs the 3D innovations lab at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, a nonprofit pediatric institution that serves Southern California, Arizona, Hawaii, and Guam. Part of his research is focuses on the integration of 3D printer technology in a clinical setting. 

 

“I’m representing a medium-sized nonprofit hospital that is trying to implement 3D printing technologies for our patients,” said Ryan. “Justifying bringing a new and novel technology into the hospital is challenging since it is nonprofit, and I have to stretch our budget.” 

 

The Webster Foundation 3D Innovations Lab features six in-house 3D printers and churns out 150+ anatomical models per year.

“We take medical images - CT scans, and MRIs  - and we create 3D data sets and 3D print them,” said Ryan. “This provides invaluable information to our surgeons and interventionalists because they can now hold the patient's heart or femur in their hand. Surgeons can now use these models as a roadmap for a patient-specific procedure or even develop new methods of treatments.

“3D printing hasn’t traditionally been in the medical system. But as we implement 3D printing, it’s opening the door to novel considerations including opportunities for increased revenue, industry collaboration, new training modalities for staff, faster and better surgeries, reduced length of stay, reduced morbidities, reduced holistic healthcare costs, and better data to leverage for research.” 

 

Bhatia and Ryan both agree that medical applications of 3D printing are quickly changing how healthcare experts practice medicine today. Academic medical centers, hospitals, and medical device companies are using 3D printing to advance patient care, and advancements like the Digital Anatomy Printer are giving them options they’ve never had before.  

 

“A few years ago, when we used older 3D printers, we were designing a new delivery catheter to put a cardiac pacemaker lead at a very specific location in the heart,” said Bhatia. “The traditional methodology for testing would include preclinical, studies on animals and cadaver work; however, we decided to use 3D printed models and bench models to quantify how well a prototype could potentially work out in the clinic.” 

 

“A lot of advancements regarding designs and materials were made to better simulate the correct boundary conditions to test categories. We were able to get quantitative numbers of how well a new product could perform,” said Bhatia. 

 

“We’re designing 3D printed models to best stimulate the boundary conditions of a very large heart. Cadavers are expensive and you get what you get. There's no way to know if the cadaver we get has a large heart,” said Bhatia. “But with Digital Anatomy technology you have so much more flexibility in making the material composites. It’s a huge difference in quality and consistency from five years ago,” said Bhatia.

“Stratasys is a 3D printing pioneer. Our Digital Anatomy technology was designed to achieve the highest level of realism in 3D printed anatomical models,” said Jessica Coughlin, the Director of Healthcare Market Access at Stratasys. “Since Digital Anatomy launched, we have continuously been innovating our solutions enabling features to create the most biomechanically accurate 3D printed models available in the market today.” 

 

“Most recently, we’ve advanced our software capabilities, with the Digital Anatomy Creator software, which allows our users to create poly-structures like never before. Creators like those at Medtronic and Rady Children’s can collaborate on digital materials to meet their exact specifications slice by slice of the print. They have total freedom to create and continue pushing the boundaries of precision medicine.”