Stratasys Direct Manufacturing, based in Valencia, California, and a division of Stratasys, provided 3D printed brain, skull and aneurysm models to the St. Louis University Department of Neurological Surgery in support of a recent study to quantify how advanced manufacturing technologies, like additive manufacturing, could enhance the training and surgical practice for neurosurgeons in advance of real-time brain aneurysm surgeries.
As interest in additive manufacturing in medicine grows, we caught up with Matthew Stenoien, Product Manager of Medical and 3rd Party Relationships, Stratasys Direct Manufacturing, to learn more about this exciting application of additive manufacturing technologies in an exclusive AMazing® Q&A conversation.
AMazing®: Matthew, thank you for your participation. The use of additive manufacturing technologies to enhance training and surgical practice to provide personalized treatments plans for patients is exciting. What are some notable benefits that additive manufacturing technologies offer over traditional silicone models, foam models or cadavers (animal and human)?
Matthew Stenoien: With additive manufacturing, you can create a model with incredible accuracy in look and feel in a quarter of the time that it takes to build a conventionally manufactured model. Unlike cadavers, 3D printed anatomical models can be ordered on-demand, customized to a specific patient to represent unique conditions. With this study, we manufactured customized models that reflected specific brain aneurysms to aid in surgical planning for Dr. Abdulrauf.
AMazing®: In support of the neurological surgery study, what was Stratasys Direct Manufacturing able to provide beyond the in-house capabilities at the St. Louis School of Engineering?
Matthew Stenoien: For starters, we were able to supplement the St. Louis School of Engineering’s in-house capabilities with expanded materials. As the largest advanced manufacturing service provider in North America, we have a wide array of materials at our disposal, allowing us to meet the needs of nearly every project. In this case, we used PolyJet Rigid VeroYellow for the skull and an overmolded TangoPlus material with a durometer of Shore 27A for the brain.
Quality controls that ensured a repeatable process and high-quality parts were also important. This was particularly crucial when it came to maintaining flawless accuracy in the aneurysm areas, which was necessary because the St. Louis University team needed the parts to mirror the actual brains as much as possible so that surgery simulations were nearly identical.
Having in-house expertise and industry knowledge also contributed to producing and designing these complex parts quickly and economically. With more than 30 years in the business, we know 3D printing’s ins-and-outs.
AMazing®: As we understand from the case study, PolyJet was selected to additively manufacture the brain, skull and aneurysm models. What were some factors that influenced the decision to use PolyJet, as opposed to other technologies like stereolithography (SLA), to produce the anatomically correct models? What resolution was required for the models? How many aneurysm cases can be printed with one PolyJet printer per day?
Matthew Stenoien: PolyJet is an ideal technology for this application because of the detail possible and the quick turnaround times. With PolyJet you can overmold parts, meaning you can print a range of durometers into a single part, something we took advantage of to create a more realistic skull and brain. The technology also has a wider range of materials than Stereolithography; with the brain aneurysm models, PolyJet Rigid VeroYellow was utilized for the skull with an overmolded TangoPlus material in Shore 27A for the brain.
These models were printed at high resolution for pivotal detail and quick build time. The ability to take scans of a patient’s aneurysm and produce a model quickly is what garners success with this application. During the course of the study, we produced only a few models, but the quick turnaround times accomplished with this process could reasonably produce multiple parts every two days.
AMazing®: While the business potential for the production of complex, high-quality niche products in smaller series appears attractive, it is understood, the undertaking is not without risks. What advice would you offer businesses interested in the commercialization of medical applications using additive technologies?
Matthew Stenoien: The high level of complexity associated with medical applications, in conjunction with the benefits of patient specific components, makes additive manufacturing an appealing technology. From a manufacturing standpoint, businesses must understand that there is a high cost of entry associated with the implementation of additive technologies capable of producing medical implants or devices used in vivo – clean rooms, ISO certifications, extensive training, and even potential changes to your manufacturing culture. Even something like patient-specific models or surgical tools may not require the same level of manufacturing difficulty, but you’ll still have to manage production practices that comply with HIPAA guidelines and federal regulations.
As the market develops, partnerships between the AM and medical industries will be key. These partnerships will bring the best of both together in an effort to help advance applications and mitigate risk. Either industry attempting to champion this on their own will have a difficult road forward.
AMazing®: As noted in an earlier Stratasys Direct Manufacturing case study, the Stratasys Direct Manufacturing anatomical department, based in Poway, California, is recognized as a leading innovator in the field of anatomical training models. What other types of anatomical training models have been additively manufactured by the department?
Matthew Stenoien: Our anatomical department has developed a wide range of 3D printed models, including birthing simulators, pediatric hearts, kidneys and bones. 3D printed anatomical models are being used by doctors and universities to train students and professionals on surgical and medical procedures, but they are also used for patient specific modeling, which is ideal for the quick and cost-effective customization capabilities of 3D printing. For instance, a 2-year clinical trial is underway to study the use of patient specific 3D printed models in pre-operative planning for pediatric heart surgery.
AMazing®: Industry experts suggest that in order for additive manufacturing to reach its full potential, advances in design, equipment, processes and materials are needed. Specific to the field of anatomical training models, what areas do you feel need to advance in order for additive manufacturing to reach its full potential? What role will service providers fill as the market matures?
Matthew Stenoien: Stratasys’ introduction of the J750 3D Printer with the ability to print in color and mix digital materials is a huge step forward for medical training models, bringing a new level of realism we hadn’t seen before in this space.
That said, limited material options across all 3D printing platforms have led Stratasys Direct to incorporate conventional manufacturing methods, like urethane casting, along with 3D printing technologies, to better replicate various anatomical material qualities. These material constraints are one of the primary limitations of additive manufacturing for medical modeling, leading the 3D printing industry to pursue materials that better mimic the quality of various body tissues. In addition to material challenges, we also need to advance modeling software to a point where it can generate and better mimic organic structures like bone and muscle.
As the market matures, I imagine service providers will continue to play a key role in the manufacturing and delivery of anatomical models due to the high cost of entry into the manufacturing space and the experience required to reliably deliver these highly complex components.
This concludes our interview. Matthew, thank you very much for your participation. We are very grateful for the opportunity to learn about Stratasys Direct Manufacturing’s involvement with the St. Louis University Department of Neurological Surgery and ongoing commitment to the use of additive manufacturing in medicine.
To read the Stratasys Direct Manufacturing case study titled “Surgical Simulation on 3D Printed Brains Improves Outcomes”, press here.
About Matt Stenoien
Matt Stenoien serves as the Product Manager of Medical and 3rd Party Relationships for Stratasys Direct Manufacturing, Inc. which collaborates with strategic accounts to leverage the capabilities of additive manufacturing technologies and advanced solutions.
In this role he identifies and develops strategic alliances that will generate leads and revenue while delivering value added solutions to select partners, and facilitates the delivery and hand-off of new materials designed to support medical initiatives and applications.
Matt has developed his career over 21 years with Stratasys and Stratasys Direct. Previously he worked as Business Development Manager and Senior Account Manager. Matt holds a MA in Clinical Psychology from Alfred Adler Graduate School and a BA in Psychology from University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.
About Stratasys Direct Inc.
Stratasys Direct Inc. is an indirect subsidiary of Stratasys Ltd., the 3D printing and additive manufacturing solutions company. Stratasys Direct Manufacturing is one of the world’s largest providers of advanced manufacturing services that combines the latest technologies and decades of experience from three industry-leading pioneers—Solid Concepts, Harvest Technologies and RedEye. With a broad range of additive and conventional manufacturing services, Stratasys Direct Manufacturing assists companies at all stages of product development to bring better products to the market faster. Stratasys Direct Manufacturing has more than 600 employees across seven manufacturing facilities in the United States. Online at www.stratasysdirect.com
About Stratasys Ltd.
For more than 25 years, Stratasys Ltd. (NASDAQ:SSYS) has been a defining force and dominant player in 3D printing and additive manufacturing – shaping the way things are made. Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota and Rehovot, Israel, the company empowers customers across a broad range of vertical markets by enabling new paradigms for design and manufacturing. The company’s solutions provide customers with unmatched design freedom and manufacturing flexibility – reducing time-to-market and lowering development costs, while improving designs and communications. Stratasys subsidiaries include MakerBot and Solidscape, and the Stratasys ecosystem includes 3D printers for prototyping and production; a wide range of 3D printing materials; parts on-demand via Stratasys Direct Manufacturing; strategic consulting and professional services; and the Thingiverse and GrabCAD communities with over 2 million 3D printable files for free designs. With more than 2,700 employees and 800 granted or pending additive manufacturing patents, Stratasys has received more than 30 technology and leadership awards. Visit us online at: www.stratasys.com or http://blog.stratasys.com/, and follow us on LinkedIn.
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