3d printed synthetic bone and tissue is here to stay

If you work at a medical device company, you know that there are many situations that require using human body parts. More often than not, these come from cadavers and not 3D printed synthetic tissue. As gross as it may be (and trust me, I’m already uncomfortable writing this), it’s necessary to thoroughly evaluate how medical devices will perform. The best way to do that is with actual human bone and tissue.

3D printing has been a popular topic in the medical space for quite some time, in a number of applications. However, focusing on medical device companies specifically, there are a few ways to impact how they operate.

1. Doctor Training

Medical device companies pride themselves on offering the best possible training for physicians. Doctors want to partner with companies and products that support and educate them. That way, they can give the best possible care to their patients.

A survey of 200 doctors and 2,000 patients revealed their take on how important the device they’re using is. Roughly 75% of doctors believe the devices they use are “important”, if not “a key factor” to their success. Providing exceptional training to doctors from the beginning of the relationship has been shown to increase overall customer satisfaction.

2. 3D Printed Synthetic Tissue and Bone Allow for Fast and Accurate Testing

3D printed synthetic model simulates human bone
This 3D printed model simulates human bone.

When developing a new medical device, there are numerous questions you may need answers to. One example might be, “How will this screw thread into a bone?”. Another maybe, “How will this needle move through tissue?”. Often these tests are performed on animals or parts of animals. Later on, they would be performed on cadavers in order to fully test the device before being used in the field.

While animal parts give a similar test media for a new device, they do not perfectly imitate how the device will perform on a person. By utilizing 3D printed synthetic tissue, bone, and organs, medical device developers could perform much more realistic testing. This realistic feedback can drive faster product development.

“..firms that are first to the market with a new product can benefit from patents and intellectual property protection, giving them a competitive advantage for a finite period.”

Five Trends to Watch in the Medical Device Industry – Mercer capital

Faster product development is critical in the highly-competitive medical industry. One analysis of the industry stated, “…firms that are first to the market with a new product can benefit from patents and intellectual property protection, giving them a competitive advantage for a finite period.”

3. Rare Medical Cases

Everyone needs medical care. That means even if someone has a rare condition, doctors still need quality tools to be able to treat it. However, when conditions are rare, so are cadavers with that condition. This makes it difficult if not impossible for companies to create devices that deal with rare and difficult ailments. It may take many months before a cadaver is available with a similar condition to the one the device is meant to address.

Alternatively, 3D models can be created from MRI and CT scan data, and then 3D printed. These physical models can be used to test medical devices instead of rare cadavers. Because the physical 3D printed models react like real tissue and bone, unique medical cases can more easily have solutions under development.

Teresa Flint holds a 3D printed model of her cerebral aneurysm.
Teresa Flint holds a 3D printed model of her cerebral aneurysm.

There are no two identical aneurysms, so doctors need to train and prepare for a wide range of anatomy. Clinical experts at Jacobs Institute (JI) used a PolyJet™ 3D Printed model to plan a life-saving procedure for Teresa Flint’s unusual aneurysm.

3D Printed Synthetic Tissue and Bone is Here to Stay

Medical devices are very important to deliver the best possible medical care. Because the industry is highly regulated, that product development is more complicated than other industries. The Stratasys Digital Anatomy 3D Printer can create synthetic FDA-certified models that can help medical device companies provide better training for doctors, accelerate product development, and create devices for unique medical cases.


Download Our Free Report To See How 3D Printed Medical Models Can Help Medical Device Companies.

Understanding both normal and pathological anatomy is one of the key elements for developing and preparing healthcare practitioners. The anatomy of each patient is different in the real world, so the practice of a surgeon on human cadavers, animal models and generic mannequins is often of little relevance to the actual patient on the table.