The precision and versatility 3D printing has brought to the medical sector has quickly assimilated additive manufacturing into the healthcare industries, but there is much more work still to be done for these developments to reach everybody.
Research and Development Manager at Peacocks Medical Group Dr Jari Pallari is one man at the forefront of the additive manufacturing healthcare frontier, with a decade of experience in the medical applications of the technology. He is considered an expert in this field - and because 3D printing in the healthcare sector is becoming an increasingly headline-grabbing topic - it is only right that Pallari represents this industry at TCT Show + Personalize next month.
Pallari revealed his presentation entitled Foot and Ankle-Foot Orthotic Development Utilising Additive Manufacturing in the A-Footprint Project will cover the ever-expanding subject of additive manufacturing orthotics and prosthetics (O&P).
"Adopting disruptive new technologies"
"The presentation will be about the research and development efforts done in the A-Footprint EU Framework 7 project to utilise additive manufacturing technologies for orthotics manufacturing. I will try to explain how additive manufacturing has been utilised in the O&P industry so far," he said.
"This industry is still utilising a lot of very low tech manufacturing techniques and additive manufacturing has huge potential to change this.
"Adopting these disruptive new technologies in the O&P field is very challenging but also very rewarding when the enthusiasm about additive manufacturing catches on and people really start thinking about the possibilities they enable," he noted.
But in spite of the hype surrounding additive manufacturing in recent years, Pallari does not believe the kind of work he and his colleagues are doing is being given enough coverage, even though the outcomes of their work could be more revolutionary and life-changing than the 3D printing-related items currently being shown on the news.
He acknowledged the technology has been given "plenty of exposure" but added there was "probably too much of '3D printing' in the last year or two" and its push-button, colourful desktop applications than the more serious research and development that has been going on behind the scenes.
"The enthusiasm of the reporters is great," he conceded, "but the hype and overselling is not. 10-15 years ago, additive technologies were oversold to the industry and now it is being oversold to the public."
Pallari hopes to be a force for change in this regard at TCT Show + Personalize, where he will be discussing the importance of additive manufacturing and how companies should be changing their mindsets and adopting these cutting-edge technologies.
"The audience will be a mix of medical and non-medical professionals and the likelihood of getting 'out of the box' ideas, discussions and questions is higher than just an O&P professional audience," he predicted, embracing the opportunity to speak in front of a more diverse group of attendees.
"Everyday something new pops up"
When Pallari steps away from the mic at the show, he is looking forward to checking out the major developments across the additive manufacturing industry himself. He revealed he is planning to make a beeline for the low-cost FDM machines as well as "spending some time doing a bit of everything".
The expert's enthusiasm for how far additive manufacturing could go is clear and he follows all aspects of the technology's developments with interest.
"There is so much going on at this time and everyday something new pops up. The increasing accessibility and utilisation of additive processes to create optimised geometries for functional parts is something I find very interesting," he said adding that he is particularly excited about his own work.
"We have just started work on two large EU FW7 projects and I look forward to those. We are members of the AddFactor and CassaMobile EU FW7 projects. The projects take different approaches and aim to enable the localised production of parts and products versus the central manufacturing approach. In the A-Footprint EU FW7 project, many engineering disciplines such as dynamic muscoskeletal modelling, finite element analysis and CAD were brought together to utilise the potential of additive manufacturing for medical device manufacturing."
Moreover, Pallari said he and his team have just launched the first commercial foot orthotic product. Christened PODFO, the Newcastle University-tested insole was built using SLS technologies and offers patients a lighter product that is more hygienic and has proven stronger and more durable than other products on the market.
The potential for additive manufacturing technologies and their medical applications are undoubtedly very exciting and Dr Pallari is bound to receive a lot of interest when he delivers his TCT Show presentation on the afternoon of September 25th.