Welcome to this month’s AM Focus: Medical. For the entire month of February, we are going to zoom in on the many possibilities that additive manufacturing is offering today to medical companies. In this article, we’re looking at Medical 3D Design, a 3D modeling company using 3D printing to create prototypes and functional parts for the medical and dental industries. Upcoming articles in the AM Focus will span innovative startups to giant multinational corporations, all of which are using AM in exciting ways. At the end of the month all the best content will be featured in 3dpbm’s Medical AM Focus 2020 eBook.
For some companies working with AM, specificity is key. That means focusing on a niche area of the market in order to face minimal competition. For others, including Croatia’s Medical 3D Design, a more holistic approach can pay dividends. Based just outside of Zagreb, Medical 3D Design is a 3D modeling company with many strings to its bow, offering both 3D modeling services and PolyJet 3D printing services, and targeting both the medical and dental industries. Sometimes less isn’t more.
According to Josip Rauker, Director of Medical 3D Design, additive manufacturing has allowed the company to do certain things — creating dental surgical guides, for example — that would have been impossible with traditional manufacturing methods. “The main advantage [of AM] is the easy production of nonstandard parts,” he says. “Production of parts that have complex geometries is much easier compared with other production methods.”
At its company headquarters near the Croatian capital of Zagreb, Medical 3D Design operates a Stratasys Objet30 OrthoDesk 3D printer, a PolyJet machine capable of printing in specially formulated polymers for the dental and medical sphere, to create prototypes and functional parts. Materials used by the company include a clear biocompatible polymer (MED610) in addition to two other specialist formulations: VeroGlaze (MED620) and VeroDentPlus (MED690).
Despite the company’s current focus on PolyJet technology, Rauker thinks the medical world can benefit hugely from an increased adoption of laser sintering systems. “There is a big selection of [SLS] materials that can be printed, and some of them are biocompatible,” he explains. “Some producers of FDM printers have announced certified biocompatible materials as well, which would certainly cut production costs, since FDM is cheaper than laser sintering. Unfortunately, FDM printers usually offer lower printing resolutions.”
One obstacle preventing Medical 3D Design from investing in 3D printing technologies like SLS is a lack of 3D printer suppliers in Croatia and the Balkan region. That’s a problem. Although it is possible to import machines, the company has struggled to find suppliers that provide adequate technical support — a sticking point for businesses that need their machines to be running without interruption.
But geographical isolation hasn’t stopped Medical 3D Design from thriving. In fact, it may have helped the company carve out its reputation as an organization ahead of the curve in Southeast Europe. After all, medical professionals are now regularly using its 3D printed products. “A patient with a bone tumor located on the forehead had an operation where the tumor was cut out and the infected bone was replaced with a PMMA cranial implant,” Rauker recalls. “The implant was made using a mold produced at my company, and a surgical guide was also made to ensure the implant would fit.”
Medical 3D Design, now six years old, generates almost all its revenue from additive manufacturing. Other companies in the region are sure to follow suit.