Additive manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D printing, is beginning to offer unprecedented benefits to the medical device industry. In a field where inventors and product development experts thrive at the forefront of technological advancement, AM provides a way to modernize conventional practices. 

The AM method uses a computer-aided design, or CAD, file to make a three-dimensional object. Materials are printed layer by layer until the object’s final shape is constructed. AM is currently used in many industries to streamline development processes, cut financial waste, and boost design innovation. The medical device industry is already using AM in many applications. For example, developers are using AM to create prosthetic limbs with customized styles and shapes. This emerging technology has the potential to reshape health care solutions for an evolving world.

3D Printing Streamlines Development for Medical Parts Manufacturers

High production costs remain a deterrent to large-scale 3D printing. Small-batch runs, however, are often faster and less expensive compared to traditional manufacturing. There are numerous other advantages that make it the ideal choice for certain production needs. 

One major benefit is a more streamlined design and development process. AM allows companies to rapidly develop prototypes, refining designs quickly and efficiently. Faster development times mean shorter times to market. It also helps you catch design flaws before entering mass production. Between following ISO standards for medical devices and developing physical prototypes, there is a lot of room for mistakes. Costly mistakes can stop many developments before they get off the ground. With AM, device manufacturers can test iterations, make any necessary adjustments, and print new parts swiftly. It’s also an economical choice in terms of energy and material costs saved. Without any need to revisit physical designs, specifications can be altered digitally and immediately tested for improved performance.

Manufacturers gain more control over the development cycle. By reclaiming time and cost, developers can work more efficiently. Modifications no longer have to be made to physical models. Using AM, designers can simply manipulate any aspect of the design in a three-dimensional CAD file. Furthermore, traditional manufacturing costs related to prototypes and design iterations are a fraction of the price with 3D printing.

Reducing Waste Improves the Bottom Line

Medical device manufacturers create products using different materials, processes, and specifications. With traditional manufacturing, these varying requirements usually generate a lot of waste in the production cycle. For example, metal injection uses costly molds to develop parts and may require expensive tooling amortization and tooling changes during prototyping stages. Also, the labor associated with design for injection molding and setup consumes more time, money, and resources. Not to mention, molds will eventually become obsolete and create additional waste in the production cycle. AM, on the other hand, creates products using fewer materials (which yields less waste) and can save time/money by eliminating certain manufacturing steps.

AM helps manufacturers establish on-demand production. Manufacturers can save money and space by reducing their physical inventories. Obsolete inventory can accumulate based on inaccurate demand projections and waste valuable space. Even well-run companies can hold between 20 to 30% of obsolete inventory, which exacerbates already-stretched operations costs. Supplementing medical device production with AM shifts to an “as needed” structure that helps to avoid overproducing products. This strategy can conserve valuable resources—including costly warehouse/storage space—and open up more room for fast-selling inventory. Companies that adopt AM can avoid wasteful business practices while improving their bottom line.

Additive Manufacturing Advances Innovation 

Another key advantage of AM is the opportunity to design products with complex geometries. Today’s array of 3D printing techniques features varying chemical and technical properties. Manufacturers can produce flexible, rigid, and even bone-like materials that have applications across the medical device industry. These new, wide applications allow healthcare professionals to provide medical solutions that were previously unavailable because of technological constraints. More patients can receive the healthcare they need, helping them lead more healthy and fulfilling lives.

Not only does AM allow developers to produce more robust designs, but it allows them to examine and modify designs in a virtual three-dimensional space. This greater control over design further enhances the development process. While used primarily for prototyping and small-batch runs, AM is on track to revolutionize mass production as well. There is no doubt this cutting-edge solution will also transform the future of design and innovation in the medical device industry. 

Pathway NPI Brings Product Concepts to Life 

As one of the nation’s leading medical device manufacturer contractors, Pathway NPI utilizes AM to produce implants, surgical instruments, prosthetics, and many other medical products. The flexibility to alter designs quickly and efficiently without the need for major, costly changes to equipment and tools benefits our production process immeasurably. We believe in adopting and leveraging the latest technologies to not only create safe, effective products but also to help our partners reach the market and accomplish their goals. Pathway NPI, which has fully ISO-certified and FDA-compliant facilities, collaborates with clients to design, validate, and produce medical device solutions. We bring these innovative ideas to life through our industry-leading expertise, capabilities, and resources. 

Are you a biotech entrepreneur or inventor with a great medical device concept? Pathway NPI has the knowledge and connections to help you develop your device, navigate the regulatory process, and put your product on the market. As a one-stop-shop for medical device design, development, and manufacturing, our multidisciplinary team knows how to turn your vision into reality. 

To learn more about Pathway NPI, contact us today to schedule a consultation.