3D Printing Methods for Medtech Prototypes

Being able to quickly produce prototype parts is critical to creating an environment of innovation that can lead to medical device market success. By removing inefficiencies, manufacturers should expect to have prototype parts in a few days, not months. The prototype method must be fast enough to allow multiple iterations in a condensed time frame, and possess the scale to allow for multiple iterations at the same time.

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Rapid manufacturing methods like 3D printing are leveraged to help drastically reduce development time for medical devices.

Additive manufacturing (AM), also called 3D printing, enables quick evaluation of new medical product designs without making compromises due to complex part geometries. Using AM offers easier design changes and at a low cost. When prototyping via 3D printing, designers should not expect a finished part, although it should be noted 3D printing processes can yield finalized products. Stereolithography, for example, has a number of post-secondary finishing processes and direct metal laser sintering produces fully dense end-use metal parts.

There may be limits to color and texture choices, and in certain instances, thermoplastic-like materials will differ from the final production material used in process like molding and machining. If the surface finish, texture, color and coefficient of friction vary from the end material, it is difficult to accurately assess the subtle needs and benefits of these properties.

The main advantage of 3D printing is that it provides accurate form and fit testing. The build process of additive technology can accurately produce the form and size of the desired part, making it very useful for early evaluation of new medical parts. It is best used to identify design flaws, make changes, and then make second-generation machined parts or invest in tooling to create injection-molded parts. This article reviews that various AM printing methods commonly used in prototyping.

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WATCH: How Draft Makes Your Drink Cold

We’re kicking off an animated series that takes a quirky look at the fundamentals of molding. The first short video is on draft, one of the most important consideration during injection molding part design.

Check it out:

 
For more information on designing with draft, read our recent tip on 5 ways to improve part moldability with draft.

EYE ON INNOVATION: Watch for Tech Blitz at Super Bowl 50

Look for lots of high-tech touches at this Sunday’s Super Bowl, organizers have promised. More than 72,000 fans are expected to attend the game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California near San Francisco, which is home to the NFL’s 49ers.

At the Game
As CNET reports, most of those in attendance will likely be using some sort of mobile device as they look at game statistics and share photos and other content on social media. To handle all of that data, the stadium, which opened in 2014, has 400 miles of fiber and copper cable and 1,200 Wi-Fi access points. The venue has 10 times more bandwidth than the NFL mandates at other stadiums.

Photo: Wired Magazine

On the app side, those at the game can also use NFL Fan Mobile Pass and the Road to 50 apps to help them get around outside and inside the stadium.

Video is also central to the stadium’s technology infrastructure, says the San Francisco Chronicle. A video master control room runs everything that fans see on two giant scoreboards, a video ribbon board along the second deck and 2,400 TV monitors throughout the stadium. The room is filled with about $6 million worth of video equipment, including 4K-resolution ultra-HD cameras, instant replay machines and digital video monitors. Continue reading

DESIGN TIP: Thermoplastic-like vs. Thermoplastic

Many factors come into play when comparing the material properties of thermoplastics found in injection molding versus “thermoplastic-like” materials used in a 3D printing technology like stereolithlography (SL). At Proto Labs, a thorough selection of thermoplastic-like materials are offered through SL, but what may surprise you is the versatility and range of potential applications for SL parts.

This month’s tip discusses:

  • heat deflection, tensile strength and other important properties of thermoplastic-like materials
  • how SL materials compare to similar injection-molded thermoplastics
  • the benefits and range of suitable applications for each SL material
  • the impact of light and moisture exposure on 3D-printed parts

READ THE FULL DESIGN TIP HERE.