Prototyping Engineered for an Aging Population

The growth of our country’s aging population is perhaps the most powerful force shaping today’s economy and the outlook for medical device companies in particular. For instance, the bulk of baby boomers now are 70 or older, while the U.S. Census Bureau projects the 65-and-over U.S. population to double to nearly 84 million by 2050.

The ways that rapid manufacturing companies such as Proto Labs can help med tech companies serve this aging population is the focus of a column by Rob Bodor, Proto Labs’ VP and GM of the Americas, in Med Device Online. Bodor’s column is the first in a four-part series, “Building Better Prototypes,” for the med tech website.

Bodor’s current column covers factors that drive rapid manufacturing’s viability in the med tech space, and explores the various processes and materials that med-device companies should consider.

You can read the entire column here.

EYE ON INNOVATION: Vertebrae Implants More Proof of 3D Printing’s Place in Med Tech

3D printing and other rapid manufacturing methods continue to transform the med tech industry, as illustrated recently by an Australian neurosurgeon who, in late 2015, removed cancerous vertebrae in a patient and implanted, in their place, printed vertebrae.

The 3D-printed part that would replace the patient’s cancer-ridden vertebrae. Photo: Dailymail.co.uk and ABC News.

Dr. Ralph Mobbs, a neurosurgeon at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney, called the procedure a “world first.” The surgery was performed on a patient with chordoma, a rare form of cancer that occurs in the bone of the skull and spine. As Wired UK reports, the 60-year-old patient was affected in the two vertebrae responsible for turning the head — meaning that, if the 15-hour surgery had failed, he would have been left paralyzed.

Because of the position and function of these vertebrae, however, they’re extremely hard to replace — they must be an exact fit. Mobbs decided to 3D print the replacements instead, and worked with Anatomics, an Australian medical device manufacturer, to design and build the implants, which were made from titanium. The company also printed exact anatomical models of the patient’s head for Mobbs to practice on before the surgery. Continue reading

THE SHORT LIST: 5 Observations on West Coast Trade Expos

Disneyland is not the only venue making magic this week in Anaheim. The city’s mammoth convention center is hosting six “co-located” expos — ATX West, Electronics West, MD&M West, Pacific Design & Manufacturing, PLASTEC West and WestPack, which is attracting a global collection of product designers, engineers, software developers, inventors and entrepreneurs.

A banner outside the Anaheim Convention Center.

Here’s what is being discussed in nearby convention-center hotel lobbies after day one of the show on Tuesday. The event continues through Thursday. Continue reading

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

Proto Labs Quoting System Helps Lockheed Martin Drone Take Off

The commercial-grade Indago Quadcopter unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or drone, from Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed Martin, is soaring in popularity with law enforcement agencies, defense customers, firefighters, real estate firms, farmers and construction companies.

The high demand stems mostly from the drone’s versatility, range and small, 5-pound, fold-up size, says Miguel Perez, an engineer for Lockheed’s Procerus subsidiary, which developed the drone with prototyping and low-volume production help from Proto Labs.

Lockheed Martin’s Indago drone is a small, 5-pound, fold-up quadcopter capable of work at various ranges — up to 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) using integrated antenna solutions — from its ground controller.

Continue reading