The adoption of 3D printing labs by hospitals and healthcare systems in recent years is a growing trend. A recent webinar sponsored by Formlabs and moderated by Gaurav Manchanda, Director of Medical Market Development at Formlabs, highlighted the value of the technology from a clinical, business, and regulatory perspective.
Northwell Health Director of 3D Design and Innovation with the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research, Todd Goldstein, offered his personal experience of the value of 3D printing technology during the pandemic from a patient perspective and the supplier.
“Having an in-house 3D printing lab has allowed us to perform surgeries that may not have been possible before without the specific cutting jigs,” Goldstein said. “I don’t know if you can put a price tag on being able to save a patient’s limb that they would otherwise have lost.”
He noted that the lab enables the healthcare system to directly print new medical devices in real time, such as producing custom surgical trays and instrument connectors to leverage products from various medical device manufacturers in a single complex surgery.
Goldstein also pointed out that by working with the FDA and collaborating with USF Health and Formlabs, Northwell was able to design, develop and clinically validate 3D-printed swabs for Covid-19 testing within weeks. More than 80 million of these new NP swabs have been deployed and used worldwide. Additionally, when ventilators were in short supply, Goldstein and his team worked with the FDA to use his 3D printers to make adapters that converted BiPAP machines into ventilators and use them safely with nearly 500 patients.
“For us to be able to be self-sufficient to help overcome our initial supply chain issues [in 2020] has been extremely valuable to the hospital,” Goldstein said.
The pandemic has also allowed 3D printing to prove itself commercially. Alex Drew, senior mechanical project engineer at Enovis, formerly DJO Surgical, said there was a point early in the public health crisis when interacting with surgeons became difficult due to the inability to meet in person.
“Until the Covid-19 protocols are settled, 3D printing design teams could still get together. They could also print trays of surgical tools and ship them to the [appropriate people] to assess them. »
Surgeons could discuss 3D-printed surgical tool trays in Zoom or Webex meetings, he said.
Ken Gall, serial entrepreneur and associate dean for entrepreneurship at Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering as well as a professor in the university’s department of mechanical engineering and materials science, said the goal is to make medical device components cheaper at the point of service.
“The general hope is that we can provide implants at reasonable costs that have better patient outcomes. It’s still the main driver, but the medical device industry hasn’t always worked that way. There has often been an increase in costs, but this has not necessarily led to better results. 3D printing could help [lower costs associated] with inventory management.
A 2018 report on the use of point-of-care 3D printing in hospitals shared by FDA research scientist Matthew Di Prima in the webinar found that although the majority (64%) use it to develop prototypes, 47% use it for surgical planning models, 46% for tooling, 39% for printing surgical instruments and just over a fifth (22%) use it to produce prostheses.
The webinar also highlighted how the FDA and commercial players view 3D printing and new developments in this area.