Rapid Prototyping Shows Growth In Medical Industry

The Medical Industry is by far the biggest adapter of Additive Manufacturing technology, with the Medical Industry accounting for some 15% of all Rapid Prototyping in 2009. From novel to potentially life saving applications, the Medical Industry will continue as a strong growth sector for Rapid Prototyping as researchers work to uncover new applications and refine existing technologies.

Traditionally a tool of the design verification stage, with early material limitations resulting in brittle, photo-sensitive prototype models. These material limitations meant early prototype models were predominantly used for visual design aids and marketing activities, with limited functionality. As the range of materials available for Additive Manufacturing has increased so too has the range of applications for this technology. Designers can now choose materials that closely simulate production plastics, allowing for fit, form and functional testing. Medical Device designers can find likely production issues before committing to expensive production tooling.

A London-based, Ultrasound Clinic became one of the first UK companies to adapt a their clients the opportunity to buy a 3D printed model of their unborn baby. Doctors at the clinic are also investigating the potential for using 3D ultrasound imaging combined with 3D printing as a tool for the early diagnosis of developmental problems and illness with the aim of improving survival rates for sick babies.

Orthopaedic firms too have seen the potential of Rapid Prototyping, with orthopaedic design engineers such as Orchid design integrating 3D printing into the design process to verify design and to prevent costly design errors. Newcastle based Peacocks Medical have taken this one step further, by integrating Selective Laser Sintering into their production process. Using SLS it is possible for Peacocks Medical to create “perfect fit” prosthetics for their clients.

While orthopaedic and prosthetic applications of this technology have proven positive, the true potential of Rapid Prototyping lies within the field of bio-printers. Researchers are working on 3D printing machines, capable of printing human skin, blood and organs. If successful the To date this research has shown positive results, however it is not likely that we will see 3D printers in local hospitals just yet. For burns victims and transplant patients, bio printers hold the potential for life saving treatments.

Rapid Prototyping now offers USP Grade VI and ISO 13485 approved materials which has further strengthened the role of Rapid Prototyping within the Medical industry. Stereolithography material Watershed is suitable for use in preclinical trials while Electron Beam Melting and Direct Metal Laser Sintering have proven popular as a manufacturing process for customised orthopaedic implants. With ongoing investment in materials and research into the field of bio-printing it is likely that the next few years will see further changes in how Rapid Prototyping technologies applies to the Medical Industry.

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2 Stainless Steel Uses in the Medical Industry – Ortho and Surgical

Along with the athletes, patrons, sporting events and competition defining the London Olympics 2012, there comes another aspect to the global event. Medical testing technicians, equipment and entire research labs coincide with the Olympic Games to ensure fair play practices. So what does this mean to the stainless steel industry and why should you care? Well, when seeing descriptions and videos of the testing centers, the use of stainless steel is apparent. It is used in every aspect of the testing for the same reasons hospitals and medical centers use it on a regular basis too. Thus, today I am going to share with you two ways the medical industry works with this durable, corrosion resistant metal.

Surgical and Orthopedic Equipment

The majority of surgical equipment is made from stainless steel or a similar alloy. These metals are used for dissecting tools, tweezers, forceps, needles and more. The reason why it is the metal of choice is due to the hygienic abilities it contains. The metal is easy to sterilize and clean, which are two factors of obvious high concerns for medical practices and industries. It decreases the risk of infection and spread of disease. Without the workings of proper medical material, the cost and loss of such negative results can shut down medical facilities and cause thousands of people to lose their jobs and income. Not to mention the loss of lives. By simply changing the material to one that satisfies the requirements and lowers any external risks, you are providing patients with security, safety and peace of mind.

The surgical department is not the only department where you see these materials used. The orthopedic arena relies upon it too.

If you break an ankle, knee and/or foot then a doctor may require the insertion of screws and pins to be placed within the injured area to help you heal in a healthy manner. These pieces are made from different types of stainless steel. The location and purpose of the orthopedic implant determines what type of steel grade is needed for that specific objective. Your physician and medical team are able to provide further detailed information.

Also, talk to a worldwide alloy distributor. Ask a product specialist about why certain materials are chosen ensuring you get the best treatment and material for your medical facility and/or project. Finding the right material is essential for the overall success of your staff, facility and patients’ recoveries.

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