While the healthcare industry has dabbled with 3D printing technology, the innovations have yet to be as significant as those for medical device manufacturing. They promise to revolutionize research, development and production for good.
3D Printing’s Role in Device Manufacturing
3D printing fills the niche of customizable equipment development. While personalization in health care is typically more expensive than standard procedures, this approach is more affordable. Instead of producing products in bulk, you increase your return on investment (ROI) by making smaller, personalized batches.
Further, this technology makes matching someone’s anatomy feasible. Few have attempted it at a large scale because it’s expensive and time consuming. However, patient data capture and 3D printing have changed the game. Manufacturers can use computer-aided drawing (CAD), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or patient measurements to create a medical device specific to one person. These personalized medical devices could usher the sector into a new age.
3D printing’s demand is rapidly increasing because it’s highly versatile and affordable. The healthcare sector’s custom requests will sharply increase as it grows in popularity, meaning the medical device manufacturing sector must adapt. Whether it branches out or overhauls operations entirely, it must adjust to rapid turnaround times and production rate increases.
How Does 3D Printing Device Manufacturing Work?
3D printing utilizes data capture and precision construction to create equipment, implants, and instruments. Once a healthcare facility turns patient details like an MRI scan or CAD into a digital 3D model, they send you the file. From there, you can draft and produce prototypes.
Since the printing material is inexpensive and they have the exact measurements the facility requires, they can rapidly make the necessary iterative design improvements. A 3D printer knows the model’s precise dimensions before beginning, so it can create highly complex devices. The technology lets them be flexible, whether they need to design a dental implant with intricate internal cavities or match a prosthetic to a specific patient’s anatomy.
How Manufacturers Can Use 3D Printing Technology
The potential for 3D-printed medical devices is almost endless. You can use the technology in most stages of production, regardless of whether you’re producing prosthetics, surgical equipment, orthopedics or surgical guides. Its ability to produce custom designs using a file makes it a valuable asset instead of spending ages drafting concepts or creating multiple rounds of expensive prototypes.
Instead of conceptualizing, planning and validating, 3D printing lets you move directly into most projects’ manufacturing process. After all, there’s no need for designing when you have a digital scan of a patient’s anatomy. If you overhaul your operations to address custom requests only, you could potentially phase out the research and development stage altogether.
While you may still have to grind or polish the material to smooth it, data capture software takes care of the research and design process. You don’t have to do nearly as much casting or molding when a machine can build an object to exact specifications. 3D printing may not be able to revolutionize every task, but it can eliminate unnecessary development stages and replace most of your production process.
Why Should Manufacturers Use 3D Printing Technology?
3D printing quickly rose to popularity because it covered the entire range of medical device manufacturing. It lets you create instruments, equipment and implants for diagnoses, therapy, or monitoring. For example, manufacturers can build a custom-fit prosthetic as easily as a surgical guide. As long as you obtain a 3D model, you can print whatever a medical facility needs.
It would be challenging to overstate the importance of 3D printing in medical device manufacturing. It allows you to combine multiple processes, significantly simplifying them. Instead of needing extensive casting, grinding and polishing, you dramatically reduce your workload — and operational costs.
While traditional manufacturing often relies on bulk medical devices to remain cost-efficient, 3D printing allows for small-batch production. You can simply adjust the digital file instead of having medical professionals do manual alterations. Despite dramatically increasing your personalization capabilities, you save more time and reduce your material costs.
Is 3D Printing Evolving Medical Device Manufacturing?
3D printing is permanently changing the industry. It streamlines everything from conceptualization to development and offers a new approach to traditional production methods like casting and shaping. Although the technology has been around for decades, the sector has only recently experienced significant innovations.
Since modern 3D printers can handle various types of metal, manufacturers can craft body-safe medical equipment. For example, they can create stainless steel instruments for surgeons or titanium hip implants. Although these substances can be heavy and expensive, printing them is still favorable to crafting them manually. The resource-efficient production process offsets most costs, so you save on labor and materials.
Still, many medical device manufacturers have sought to improve the process further.
Recent emerging trends include various plastics capable of withstanding significant force and wear. Polyetheretherketone (PEEK) is one of the best options, with impressively high impact strength and temperature resistance. Polyetherimide (PEI) is an affordable alternative if you don’t need the same level of durability.
Manufacturers can branch out as much as they need to, considering the reasonably low operation costs of 3D printing. New materials emerge often as the technology becomes more popular, so they’ll have no shortage of viable options.
The Growth Rate for 3D-Printed Medical Devices
3D printing will be the future of medical device manufacturing at the rate it’s growing. While demand is already significant, projections show unprecedented market growth. Its versatility and personalization capabilities make it appealing to manufacturers and health care facilities. By all accounts, the technology could usher in a new era for those within both sectors.
The ROI for 3D printed medical device manufacturing is impressive. Some estimates put its compound annual growth rate at 16.2% over the coming years. This figure is remarkable, considering it outpaces the standard industry rate. Since it offers such stable returns, more manufacturers will likely adopt it soon to get a foothold in an increasingly competitive niche.
Even though 3D printing isn’t technically new, its growth continuously increases. The demand for printed medical devices has steadily increased since 2018. Experts project their market value will at least triple from the 2022 figure, reaching up to $9.79 billion by 2031. Such a high estimation may seem excessive, but it has a basis in statistics and trends.
Is 3D Printing The Future of Manufacturing?
3D printing will likely usher in a new era for medical device manufacturing. In addition to being an incredibly versatile tool, it gives you the unique opportunity to customize equipment and implants to any patient’s anatomy instantly. Instead of spending time developing, casting and molding, you can skip straight to production. Since the technology promises such high returns, it’s bound to take the sector by storm.