With new stories announced daily, the vast opportunities within the 3D printing technology seem to be as endless as the new capabilities. An intriguing space, of course, is the use of 3D printing in medical applications. One 3D printer company in particular, Solidscape, has worked with medical experts to develop proprietary processes and materials to make life saving advances.
By pairing accuracy with the best possible surface finish, Solidscape’s high performance 3D printers are paving the way for breakthroughs in the medical field. One of those areas of research and development includes the groundbreaking work at Arizona State University (ASU), home to a leading program in cerebral aneurysm research.
“We are all going to be surprised by the incredible number of places that 3D printing fits into both medicine and medically-oriented research,” said Dr. David H. Frakes, Principal Investigator at the Image Processing Applications Laboratory at Arizona State University.
According to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, cerebral aneurysms affect one in 50 people and contribute to nearly 20,000 deaths yearly in the U.S. alone. With the 3D printing technology available through Solidscape, ASU is able to build anatomically correct core blood vessel models that allow them to make an exact replica of a cerebral aneurysm. They can then apply these findings directly to hospitals, setting the groundwork for medical enhancements for individualized, and customized care, utilizing 3D printing technologies for patients.
“The Solidscape machine is the heart, backbone of our process. We use that to build the core blood vessel models that we then translate into transparent flow models for our experiments,” said Dr. Frakes.
The work done at ASU with cerebral aneurysms is just touching the surface of the medical capabilities that Solidscape’s precision 3D printers can provide. When it comes to creating prototypes with intricate geometries, Solidscape’s lost wax casting process allows users to create layers as fine as 6 microns. The technology works by creating parts with two waxes—one for building models and one that is a sacrificial support material. Once the softer wax support material is dissolved, a flawless and perfectly smooth object that is 100% castable is revealed. And because there is no ash or residue with the casting nor is there thermal expansion with the finished process, once the design is finalized, the turn around is quicker than other printing processes. This saves time and money by eliminating the need for the typical manual, post-product refining process.
“The end product of our physical 3D modeling stage is a transparent block wherein there is lost-core or hollow portion of the model that is an exact replica of the patient’s actual cerebral aneurysm. Rapid prototyping is how we get the first positive, before we get the negative, which is the flow model,” explains Dr. Frakes.
Founded in 1994 and acquired by Stratasys in 2011, Solidscape is the fifth largest 3D printer company worldwide with the largest installed base of 3D printers in more than 80 countries. Their secret sauce can be found in the company’s Smooth Curvature Printing with wax that allows users to accurately create complex parts with a surface finish that is unmatched in the industry. This process is changing the way parts are made and manufactured in varying industries, including biomedical products and orthopedics, as well as jewelry and consumer electronics, to name a few.
In addition to the newly refined 3Z Model and 3Z Support materials, Solidscape has recently announced the fully automated MAX2 earlier this year. This printer provides the same high precision that customers have come to expect from Solidscape, but it is tailored for manufacturing wax patterns to be cast in metal, or virtually any material via mold making (RTV) processes. The MAX2 has been optimized for production gains in jewelry, medical, and industrial manufacturing. Additionally, the MAX2 features an easy-to-use, one-touch operation allowing even beginners to produce high quality wax patterns.
Dr. Frakes and his team are continuing to leverage the Solidscape technology for additional research that will push the envelope of 3D innovations. To learn more about Solidscape and their medical applications, visit their website at http://www.solid-scape.com.
Source from: Medical Design Technology