Medical Additive Manufacturing Career Guide 1.0

Executives, Engineers, Designers and Business Development professionals give you a range of insights in this — your guide to a career in Medical additive manufacturing.

Career Guide 1.0 focuses on why you should consider a career change or start your career in this sector.

It also outlines the applications of 3D printing in Healthcare, as well as advice on how to successfully adopt these new technologies.

In Guide 2.0, you will find answers to the following questions: What learning curves should you expect?; How can you overcome them?; What advice would these professionals give you?

Collectively, these professionals have over 40 years of experience in the sector. They have had their own unique journeys. Now, they would like to share their wisdom with the i-AMdigital community.

Here are some insights to get you started in a successful career using emerging technology to help save and improve lives.

Medical Additive Manufacturing — An Exciting Career

i-AMdigital asked these professionals why they think that Medical AM is a worthy sector for a career.

As you read this section, ask yourself whether their reflections resonate with you; are these your drives, would you be motivated and engaged if you had a career in Medical AM?

Solutions for healthcare are exploding in all directions thanks to additive manufacturing and global communication. It’s an exciting time to be alive.

- Peter Binkley, Senior Designer at e-NABLE

The ability to create any kind of shape and geometry you can imagine is a completely new capability that didn’t exist before; the freedom of shape. Combined with the ability to create something that is one-of-a-kind, you can customize your products perfectly to your patient. These two capabilities can benefit the healthcare industry very much.

- Eran Golden, Engineer at Synergy3DMed

The medical sector is exciting in itself; there is a basic human instinct for solidarity and altruism, which generates a strong chemical reward when we help fellow humans. Because of this, Devices, Pharma, and Healthcare appeal to people of all vocations; engineers, physicians, nurses, biochemists, you name it. Once you feel that the direct consequence of your work is actually improving or even saving people’s lives, you want to keep feeling that fulfillment again and again.
Regarding results, AM represents a quantum leap in almost all applications. AM offers — in many cases — a completely different, new and exciting world of possibilities and solutions to old problems that were never feasible before or never conceived.
The result is that AM professionals are commonly involved in developments at the forefront of strategic R&D at their companies as well as having direct involvement in a new and improved way of helping persons and society. This combination of benefits is very difficult to reject.

- Carlos Garcia Pando, Founder of Sinter Medical

If we support hospitals with the right materials, right machines and right software, the sky is the limit.

- Michael Librus, CEO at Synergy3DMed

Applications

A brief outline of the applications of 3D printing in Healthcare.

If you want to begin your career but have no industry experience then we advise getting your hands on a FDM printer and try making some of these things at home.

  • Patient-specific prosthetics

Includes hearing aids, bionic arms, dental implants, and so on.

Hearing aids have been a success story for this application. 10,000,000 people wear hearing aids — 97% of the total — that have been produced with VAT Polymerization (SLA, DLP) technologies. As the surface of the hearing aid is smooth the wearers have greater comfort. The cost is also lower than traditional manufacturing techniques.

  • Permanent implants

Traditionally ‘off-the-shelf’ implants — such as cranial implants — now customisable because of AM.

Customisation and the ability to achieve the desired geometry because of AM, these implants meet the requirements for better integration of the implant into the patient.

  • Patient-specific or specialty surgical instruments

This is a very useful and worthwhile application that improves the skills of the surgeons during surgery. Patient-specific instruments execute the trajectory outlined in the surgical plans.

For example, if the surgeon wants to remove a tumor from the femur bone, then — using AM — you can create a specific tool that executers cutting prints created on the computer, with a perfect match to the plan.

  • Anatomical modelling

For surgical planning and patient education. For example, to demonstrate foetal heart defects.

Often the models are not reused after the surgery, however, and so this is probably the least cost-effective application for Medical AM. 3D visualisation through Virtual Reality will likely be the solution to replace AM here.

  • Wearable Devices

These are 3D printed devices that include electronics, such as wearable sensors. Wearable tech can be fantastic in keeping patients engaged with their health.

  • Bio-technology

Printing materials with living cells (bio-printing and tissue fabrication) can be used for drug delivery, regenerative engineering, etc.

Benefits include:

  • Reduced costs
  • Greater customisation — leading to improved surgical accuracy, reduced recovery time, higher comfort
  • Precision — AM helps to achieve desired geometry for an application (contributing to increased recovery time/integration, comfort and improves the skill of the surgeons during surgery)
  • Improved surgical planning
  • Increased speed of manufacturing

Yet many benefits are still unknown. This is especially the case with bio-technology but also with applications such as permanent implants, where mechanical properties of implants are being explored.

Successful Adoption of AM into the Medical Sector

If you are looking to innovate, here are tips for what you ought to consider before and during adoption of AM.

Understand what you and your customers’ needs are and which market your product will penetrate. From there, find out the AM technology that suits. Look out for regulatory factors that may or may not be potential show stoppers for product release.

- Mei Khing Ong, Operations Manager at Materialise

If you are creating an implantable product, then get advice from regulatory boards from the beginning. You do not want to spend many years creating something that is not approved. Consider that it can take 2–3 years to go through regulatory processes.

- Carlos

I think for someone who is trying to bring AM into a health care setting, it’s important to be practical.
You need to understand the capabilities of 3D printing. What materials are you trying to print and what are the strengths and weaknesses of those materials when printed? A 3D printer must be reliable and users of the machine need to understand how it works so that they can print successfully and correct problems as they arise.
Do not assume that a higher priced machine will give you better results for your application. Some very expensive 3D printers do not perform well and frequently need repair. There are also surprisingly inexpensive FDM printers that are reliable, easy to service and that produce excellent prints in a broad range of materials.
So, do your research.

- Peter

Hospitals are not factories; they cannot invest in manufacturing machines and materials. Hospitals need to concentrate on providing the service they know works well. To plan and produce Medical AM applications, hospitals need support from professional companies who are available inside the hospital who have simple printers as well as more advanced machines.
Next, you must recognize that each stage of planning needs to be confirmed by the physician. Once you find a way to make it quick and easy for the physician to communicate with you, 80% of your barriers are down. It is crucial, therefore, to have software that manages the service your company provides. Physicians can then see and verify data, support and sign off on your design wherever they are.
You also need to build the right team in the hospital. You need radiologists, who can read diacom files. You need physicians, who will use the tools in surgery. You need medical engineers and designers. And you need a team for production and post-processing. Synergy between disciplines will create a full solution to a real patient.

- Michael

The Next Step

Take a brief moment to reflect on how you will take action on what you have read. Can you take any of their advice for adopting AM? Are you interested in a Medical AM career?

If you’re looking to take the next step towards a career in this sector, then i-AMdigital can connect you with resources for formal and informal learning, as well as career opportunities in Healthcare.

i-AMdigital is a free, interactive platform for talent-development in 3D printing that uses smart-matching to help you find your ideal job, ensure the continuous improvement of your skill-set and connect you with a highly engaged community of AM professionals.

To join, just head to www.i-AMdigital.com.

Let us know your feedback on the Career Guide; you can reach our Talent Development Specialist via her email, laura@i-AMdigital.com.

Are you an AM professional that would like to share your experience and advice? Then also get in touch!