Our partner publication MedicalExpo e-magazine had the chance to interview Michael Gaisford, Director of Healthcare Solutions at 3D printing company Stratasys to discuss the latest innovations in printers, materials and softwares for the healthcare sector. We have reproduced an extract of this interview by Célia Sampol, MedicalExpo e-magazine‘s Editor-in-chief, for DirectIndustry e-magazine. Click here to read the full version.
MedicalExpo e-magazine: What is more important in 3D printing for Stratasys the hardware or the software?
Michael Gaisford: Stratasys is both a printer and a material company. Certainly the printers and the hardware are very important to us but what really drives our value proposition is the material: What capabilities can you create? Are they clear, are they flexible? What can you do with material in order to power various medical applications? Then of course you need to have the softwares to run the printers and we do have that too. Stratasys has a lot of software tools to operate our printers at peak performance. We do not have the software that converts a MRI-CT to a 3D printed model, but we have partnered with others in that field.
MedicalExpo e-magazine: The J750 is said to be the best 3D printer for medical models. Why?
Michael Gaisford: (…) The J750 is ideal for medical modeling because of its unrivaled versability. It runs six different materials including a variety of colors and transparency, and materials that can have flexibility as well. Because of this, you can support models across a wide range of anatomy and applications.
Single material can be appropriate in certain applications, but it is unable to meet a wide array of applications that require the sophistication of multi-material. For example, let’s think about more complex programs such as surgical oncology where you want to be able to print a kidney and the tumor that’s inside of it and the biliary duct and the arteries and veins and other critical structures, and you want to be able to see each of them differently. How can you do that with a single-material-rigid printer? It can’t be done. So with the Stratasys J750, you can create models that are functional for pretty much every therapeutic area in a hospital.
MedicalExpo e-magazine: What about the different colors? How are they useful for the surgeon?
Michael Gaisford: (…) For a brain tumor surgery, you might print a brain in a flexible transparent material, the tumor in green, nerves and arteries and veins in different colors as well, and then the surgeon uses the flexible model and can actually operate on it. He can explore how he’s going to reach the tumor without damaging the brain tissue, he’s able to do that because it’s a flexible model that he can manipulate with a tumor that he can clearly see, and arteries and veins that he can also clearly see, and of course a rigid skull.
MedicalExpo e-magazine: What are the latest innovations in 3D-printed prostheses?
Michael Gaisford: It really ranges for different applications. One of the applications that gets the most credit is when you print a robotic arm for a child. Because that population is very underserved today. The cost of a prosthesis is tens of thousands of dollars, a family just can’t afford that especially because their child is going to outgrow it in two or three years. So 3D printing has really democratized prostheses for younger patients. Some groups are also adding bionics and mechanical functions in order to improve the arm functionality.