Can 3D Printers Drive Medical Development?
With the advent of the 3D printer, we have seen a little bit of science fiction enter into our homes. But there has been few areas that have benefited quite like prototyping, particularly in the medical field with a two-fold benefit.
Medical device research and development is without a doubt the highest capital expense when bringing a new device to market. Costs such as proof-of-concept, alpha and beta prototypes, and design validations prevented those without a substantial financial backing from progressing beyond an idea for a product.
With home 3D printers available for less than $400, proof-of-concepts are now easily, affordably, and quickly being made by people who previously did not have the means. This in turn allows individuals to propose ideas to larger medical firms who can then use the same process to perform rapid fire alpha and beta testing on feasible devices at a fraction of the cost that previous prototyping methods incurred.
Beyond costs, the second benefit of improvements to medical prototyping is time to market. With past prototypes, alpha and beta constructions would require extensive lead times and would deter people from altering designs beyond necessity. With 3D modelling and printing, the ability to make iterative changes and on-the-fly tweaks to design has drastically cut down time to market. Improvements in designs have the added benefit of potentially reducing rejection rates during clinical trials by ensuring preliminary testing has been extensively done on working scale models.
Overall, with 3D printers improving both the cost and turnaround time for prototyping medical devices, companies can expect to improve their overall cost structure and increase potential revenues as a result of a faster time to market.