This upcoming October, Machine Design and Electronic Design will be hosting the 2nd Medical Device Technology Exchange (MDTX) in San Diego. The MDTX conference will bring together experts on medical devices and the medical engineering industry together to highlight the new technological innovations changing the industry. Our profile series will highlight our expert speakers that will be at MDTX.
Eric Utley is our speaker from Protolabs, and his session will highlight how 3D printing is changing the medical device industry.
Who are you and what is your background in engineering and in the medical device industry?
I am an applications engineer with 10 years of experience in rapid prototyping and 3D printing. A large portion of the customers I have worked with are in the medical industry. I have helped produce prototype and production parts for all sorts of medical applications including surgical tools and robotics, anatomical references, lab equipment, and drug delivery systems.
What is your conference topic and why is it important for the medical device industry?
My topic is on using 3D printing for production, and the challenges and advantages of doing so. The medical industry is an early adopter of using 3D printing for production because 3D printing excels at making organic shapes that can contour to the patient’s body, and can also make small, complex features that are common in medical products like surgical robotics and dental applications.
What is the biggest issue when designing a medical device?
The current largest hurdle for implementing 3D printing in a medical device is the validation. 3D printing is a lot newer than conventional manufacturing and does not have the history of conventional manufacturing when it comes to industry standards around issues like material traceability and validation and sterilization. I plan to give some guidance on this subject in this talk.
What new technology, in your opinion, will change medical devices forever?
DMLS (Direct Metal Laser Sintering) is already drastically changing the landscape of medical devices. It is becoming more popular to use this technology to make implants, because it can make organic shapes to match the patient’s bone structure and the textured finish helps promote bone growth. It can also be used to make metal parts with lots of small detail, like surgical jaws or a drill guide. The medical industry appears to be at an inflection point, and there is a large uptake of the industry leveraging this technology to make more competitive products.
What’s the most important thing you can impart to the readers—a teaser, if you will—for what they can expect to hear during your session at the MDTX event?
My presentation will help identify where there are opportunities to leverage 3D printing in new medical products, and to help give engineers and product developers a roadmap of how to identify if a part or product is a good candidate to produce using 3D printing.
Anything else you would like to add about this topic or yourself that readers would be interested to hear?
Even if the attendee is not in the medical industry, I believe this presentation is a great resource for anyone who wants to stay up-to-date with the latest on 3D printing, and takes the massive amount of information out there on 3D printing and boils it down to something palatable.