New effort in GR for 3D printing for medical devices

GRAND RAPIDS — A $500,000 grant from the Grand Rapids SmartZone Local Development Finance Authority will fund a 2 1/2-year program to use 3D printing technology to create medical device parts using medical grade materials and tolerances.

The intent: to cut the cost and time barriers for medical devices entering the market.

More than a dozen students from Grand Valley State University’s Padnos College of Engineering and Computing will join the GVSU Applied Medical Device Institute and the Grand Rapids medical device contract designer and manufacturer MediSurge Products LLC in the effort, which will use 3D printing technology from Redwood City, Calif.-based Carbon Inc.

Carbon 3D printer technology has been installed in AMDI’s incubator space in Grand Valley’s Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences (pictured above). Grand Valley officials say the installation is the first in the midwest to use Carbon 3D printing on campus. Said Brian Nowak, executive director of AMDI: “This novel 3D additive manufacturing technology, targeting medical grade materials, will soon be the new standard, and this study will be a launch pad for course content that is used in curriculum throughout the university.”

Carbon’s technology offers nine different families of materials that are biocompatible, meaning they are not toxic or harmful to living tissue and can be used in or under the skin. While the use of 3D printing technology has been used by many different industries, it has never been an option for final polymer-material-based medical device manufacturing, as existing materials are not safe for intravenous use and printed polymer products could only be used as prototypes.

“Our team was very interested in being a part of this project, as there is a unique dynamic between all three entities,” said Andy Savarese, medical technology sales manager at Carbon, Inc. “This study also provides a platform to teach the engineers of tomorrow different ways to manufacture products, and that is very important to our team at Carbon.”

The costs and time to market for polymer-based medical devices are growing rapidly with increased regulations, steel tooling, and design validation requirements. The goal of this program is to find the tipping point, in complexity and number of parts, where 3D printing technology will be the method of choice to significantly reduce startup costs and time to market, a benefit for companies of all sizes.

“The current process of launching a new medical device to market in the United States is strictly regulated, highly complex, and expensive, so we understand the importance of perfecting this type of emerging technology,” said Bob Taylor, CEO of MediSurge and its parent company, Alliant Healthcare Products. “Being able to offer this type of novel service would drastically decrease time to market for products and create immense value for customers.”

Upon completion of the study, and determining scalability for 3D printing of medical devices at production volumes, MediSurge would be the first medical device manufacturing company in the Midwest to offer this type of service. Because the MediSurge team sees the future value in this project, they have committed to providing funds and engineering throughout the study in partnership with AMDI and Grand Valley State University.

The Grand Rapids SmartZone emphasized its support for the collaborative project that combines applied academics and industry expertise. The board’s interest in investing was related to the ability to develop models, prototyping, fabricating and testing, as well as business and market viability, commercialization and financing of medical device companies in Grand Rapids. This investment supports the commercialization of technology in the Grand Rapids Certified Technology Park.

“Investing in additional services that expand the offerings to AMDI incubator clients and addresses barriers associated with time to market is a strategic priority of the SmartZone and supports the City’s talent development, attraction and retention efforts,” said Kara Wood, managing director of economic development services for the City of Grand Rapids. “Continuing to develop and foster strategic partnerships between higher education, research institutes and industry leaders is key for Grand Rapids’ economic success.”

For more information on the project, technology, and MediSurge’s involvement, visit http://www.medisurge.com/3Dprinting.

For more information on engineering design and manufacturing services, visit
https://www.gvsu.edu/amdi/3dprinting.

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