How can 3D Printing Influence your Medical Device Business?
How can 3D Printing Influence your Medical Device Business? – by Terence Logan
When most people think about 3D printing, they generally think of prototyping or something they watched on TV; Grey’s Anatomy printing a heart valve, for example. But where does the reality lie?
Since its inception, 3D printing (Additive Manufacturing or AM for short) has moved along at a steady pace; never racing ahead, but always being referred to as “the latest technology”. More recently and particularly post COVID-19, this technology has gathered pace and now the strides, that have always been hinted at, are becoming more like jumps, as new materials, faster production and larger machines drive the industry forward into industrial use of the technology.
But what does this mean to a medical device or pharma business and how can these breakthroughs help?
Reducing time to market of a new product is always something that benefits any business. Typically, within early design phases, the advancement in available materials and colours has seen massive time savings. Unilever lowered lead times by 35% (Audi estimate time savings of up to 50%!) to not just prototype but also to test products to regulatory standards. When compared to traditional methods of tooling, where customer sign off can take 6-8 weeks per tool, huge time savings can be made.
It is not only in the prototyping stage that savings can be made though. Reducing labour costs is a key problem for many manufacturers and there are a few ways that industrial 3D printing can help with this. The image above shows a capsule counter designed in medical grade PA11 (USP VI). Created for a clean room environment, this device allows the user to quickly count and dispense the correct number of capsules for the container and because of its shape and form, this product could not be made as one part using conventional manufacturing. The capsules are “shovelled” into the top and the counter orientates, counts and then dispenses the correct amount. By utilising this product, the customer has seen production increase by 30%. Creating jigs to ease with production bottlenecks can save time, increase morale in what could be a laborious task, reduce repetitive strain injuries and reduce reject rates.
Having trouble obtaining supply of parts?
Part consolidation and its implications is not something people generally consider when looking at their design. But by working with a designer, who specialises in additive manufacturing, two parts or more can become one with increased strength, reduced size and lower production costs, than the original.
The “market of one” is where industrial 3D printing comes into its own. The ability to produce hundreds of unique parts at the same time for different customers offers businesses some valuable opportunities. A study by Deloitte suggested that, on average, in different retail sectors, 36% of consumers would consider buying customised products or services. If that figure surprises you, just listen to this: 1 in 5 of these consumers would be willing to pay 20% more for a personalised or exclusive product! This indicates a shift in consumer mentality away from monetary cost, and towards inherent value. In addition, 48% of customers would be willing to wait longer for a customised product or service something that, for example, US hearing aid manufacturers have embraced the advantages of industrial 3D printing in a market which is now dominated by its use.
With new materials come new opportunities. Metals, carbon fibre and TPU are just some of the new advancements that when combined with the value that industrial 3D printing provides, creates a wealth of opportunities. What will come of these changes? We are just starting to see the tip of the iceberg but as these developments move through the manufacturing environment, we will see even more ways that AM can help develop our future.
Addition Design is an additive manufacturing and 3D printing consultancy unlocking maximum value in the use of industrial 3D printing technology and additive
manufacturing for our customers. With a heritage in consultancy, additive design and manufacture we operate from a purpose-built design and manufacturing facility in the heart of UK digital manufacturing at the advanced manufacturing park in Sheffield. We consult on, design and supply components and products that benefit from high quality additive manufacture.
If you would like any more information from Terence or would like to see how AM can help develop your business, then please feel free to get in touch using the hyperlink below.
Sales Manager at Addition - Additive Manufacturing