The Medical Technology industry continues to makes a vital contribution to the UK’s economic growth. The burgeoning sector consists of more than 3000 companies, mostly small and medium sized enterprises, and employs approximately 76,000 people. Valued at £17 billion, the industry has achieved growth in excess of 6% in recent years and is a significant exporter.
The technical nature and the speed of development within this important sector means that finely detailed prototypes are often required at the earliest stage of the product design process. In addition, to remain competitive in this fast moving field, pre-production times need to be minimised and time to market periods reduced. To help achieve these objectives the UK Healthcare industry is increasingly turning to 3D printing.
Typical of the farsighted companies who have embraced 3D printing is Eschmann Equipment. Established in 1830, Eschmann is one of the UK’s leading designer and manufacturer of operating tables, operating theatre equipment and infection control systems.
Headquartered in an impressive admin, design and manufacturing facility in Lancing West Sussex, the company employs 230 people worldwide. Eschmann’s comprehensive range of some of the markets leading products include powered operating tables, operating table accessories, specialist operating tables, operating theatre lighting systems, surgical suction units, bench-top autoclaves, electrosurgery units and accessories such as smoke evacuation units, monopolar and bipolar forceps, scissors and electrodes.
Explaining the company’s successful implementation of 3D printing Mick Gray, Eschmann Mechanical Engineering Manager said: “Eschmann's expertise and high-quality equipment is trusted by medical professionals throughout the world. To ensure that we remain at the cutting-edge and that we continually introduce advanced new products to the global Healthcare industry, we work closely with industry professionals to help guarantee the effective introduction of Eschmann innovations that will benefit both patients and medical professionals.
Rather than present 2-dimensional representations of proposed new designs for important user interfaces, such as hand held controls, to industry professionals, traditionally we have used agencies to create 3D printed prototypes. Although, when compared to drawings, these externally printed, 3D concept models gave a better understanding of the planned product to potential users, the use of outside agencies lengthened the design, prototype and focus group consultation process, in addition the practice proved extremely expensive.
“Due to increasing volumes of designs that needed to be 3D printed and the intricacies often required, we undertook a search for a high-quality, cost effective 3D printer that would enable us to bring this important function in-house and deliver an economical return on our investment. Having performed an in-depth web search and taken advice from other 3D printer users, we compiled a short-list of 2 – 3 preferred options.
“At this time, by a happy coincidence a couple of the chosen 3D printer suppliers were due to exhibit their products at the relatively local Southern Manufacturing Exhibition. We attended the show armed with our 3D printer capability wish-list and a long list of questions. Although all of the demonstrations we observed were very impressive, the model that ticked all of our boxes, covered a wide range of plastics and proved most cost-effective was the Stratasys Objet30 Pro from SYS Systems.
“As a new user of the technology, we were particularly concerned about the back-up that we would receive from our 3D printer supplier, but given the reputation of SYS Systems for customer service, we were happy to place an order.
“Following a straightforward installation and short training period, the Objet30 Pro is delivering on all of the promises made by the staff of SYS systems. Now, in-house we are able to create finely detailed physical objects directly from digital data that are virtually identical to the real thing in terms of size, shape, colour, texture and weight. As we 3D print tactile, user-interface prototypes, such as hand held controls, it is important that prior to series production our Healthcare industry focus groups are able to handle and scrutinise products from every angle, assess their ergonomics and confirm the intuitive nature of their controls’ layouts.
“In addition to fulfilling our original needs, the outstanding after sales service and continuing help and advice that we have received from SYS Systems have ensured that we have been able to find new uses for our Stratasys 3D printer. Our Objet30 Pro has helped to slash our design to production times, ensured the successful fine-tuning of product designs, saved a lot of money on using outside 3D printing agencies and is well on its way to giving us an even quicker ROI than we anticipated.”
SYS Systems Managing Director, Andrew Fulton added. “The UK Medical Technology industry is made up from companies that produce a wide range of medical equipment and devices, ranging from low cost disposable items and diagnostic test kits, to advanced equipment such as hi-tech scanning systems.
“The many successful installations we have made within the sector have enabled SYS Systems to develop a thorough understanding of this demanding industry’s exacting needs. The reputation we have gained for the quality of our Stratasys 3D printers and for the outstanding levels of service that we provide has resulted in high levels of business from the sector.”
Stratasys manufactures 3D printing equipment and materials that create physical objects directly from digital data. The company’s systems range, from affordable desktop 3D printers to large, advanced 3D production systems, Manufacturers use Stratasys 3D Printers to create models and prototypes for new product design and testing, and to build finished goods in low volume.
The Objet30 Pro, as purchased by Eschmann Equipment, combines the accuracy and versatility of a high-quality rapid prototyping machine with the convenience and small footprint of a desktop 3D printer. Powered by PolyJet technology, it offers eight different 3D printing materials, among them clear, high-temperature and simulated polypropylene. The Objet30 Pro features the industry’s best in class print resolution of 28 Microns, ensuring the delivery of smooth surfaces, small moving parts and thin walls. With a roomy tray size of 300 × 200 × 150 mm (11.81 × 7.87 × 5.9 in.), the cost effective 3D printer is ideal for prototyping consumer goods including consumer electronics and medical devices. The Objet30 Pro provides users with in-house capabilities enabling the creation of realistic models with specialised properties quickly and easily.
The Objet30 Pro uses four Rigid Opaque materials that are available in a variety of colours. The Vero family of materials boast excellent dimensional stability, high-detail visualisation and are designed to simulate plastics that closely resemble the end product. Also available are specialised material capabilities including transparent (VeroClear), an almost colourless material, High Temperature material for advanced functional testing, hot air and water flow and Simulated Polypropylene that offers toughness and durability to create smooth prototypes with living hinges, flexible closures and snap-fit parts.