3D printing offers unique, innovative solutions to medical needs. As recent news has shown, older manufacturing methods come with serious drawbacks. Production is often slowed as a factory or assembly line is retooled for a different product. Customization can be difficult and require specialized tools that may be hard to come by. Medical device designs may be limited by what the current systems can do. Equipment may need to be manufactured in an area far from where it is needed, causing life-endangering delays.
3D printing changes all this and more.
3D printers are limited in what they can produce only by their ability to print materials and size. A printer can make ventilator valves for half a day and can later be used to create face shields the rest of a day. The only change is the design that is loaded into the printer and possibly a swap of the materials it is using.
Because patients and circumstances vary so often, medical equipment often needs to be customized. This can take time and money that may not be available with traditional manufacturing efforts. Those methods may not be able to provide the level of customization that is needed. With 3D printing, however, the primary limits to customization are the limits of the material. The design can be tweaked as needed, then produced to specification within (often) a matter of hours.
This also allows for a wide range of innovation. This can range from more optimal redesign to simple but important fixes such as t-valves to increase the patient capacity of ventilators. Because the limits are so far, 3D printing allows for an entirely new and creative approach to solving medical equipment problems that is not often allowed through more traditional methods of manufacturing.
3D printers have another significant advantage that can save lives: 3D printers are far more mobile than large factories. A small 3D printer, suitable for printing many small but key parts and devices, can be carried to almost any location. These printers have seen use in the field as a part of humanitarian missions, used for tasks such as printing new parts for broken pipes. While these sorts of solutions may seem simple, it can be difficult to get certain equipment in some areas or during a shortage. With a 3D printer on hand, specialized equipment can be produced at the treatment site, rather than waiting days, weeks, or longer for it to get from a factory to where it’s needed.
3D printing can and has already been used to address medical needs. It’s a frontier that can revolutionize the healthcare industry and make everyone, from doctors to patients to family members, safer, healthier, and happier.
At Jawstec, our expert team is ready to help you use 3D printing to help you be a part of this promising change. We believe that human innovation and community can get us through tough times and learn from the challenges we face to create a better world.