More opportunities will be created for medical device SMEs in the 3D printing space following last year’s US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for the first 3D-printed orthopedic implant – a patient-specific cranial device manufactured in the US – says an analyst with research and consulting firm GlobalData.
Linda Tian, MSc, GlobalData's analyst covering Orthopedic Devices, believes that as competition intensifies in the joint reconstruction space, the future lies in the ability of medical device manufacturers to achieve a better mimicry of natural joint kinematics, therefore enhancing the patient experience. 3D printing is now starting to play a significant role in helping firms to address these issues.
Tian says: “The shift to personalized healthcare underpins the importance of tailored surgical plans and patient-specific implants. With 3D printing, such products can be printed on a per-patient basis and customized easily to each patient’s needs, which presents an ideal opportunity for medical device manufacturers to seize.”
3D printing could also impact on orthopedic procedures through cost-saving advantages, which are achieved by rapid prototyping and manufacturing.
Tian continues: “Printing orthopedic products in 3D, using high-resolution polymer technology, allows clients to see every complex angle and feature, and the subsequent reduction in the number of iterations needed to reach a final design is a big time-to-market accelerator.
“Custom-made orthopedic prostheses usually take weeks or even months to be designed, fine-tuned, and fabricated, while it is clear that 3D printing promises a much shorter time frame.”
While hospitals and private-practicing physicians begin to integrate and incorporate 3D printing into the services they offer, Tian expects the orthopedic industry to see a number of small- to medium-sized firms, which specialize in this 3D service, expand and act as contracted service providers for hospitals and/or large orthopedic companies alike.