Watch Matt’s webinar here: Metal 3D Printing in MedTech
Production with metal additive manufacturing is a completely different challenge than prototyping. If you’re interested in getting into production with metal 3D printing, there is a lot you should be aware of before you make the leap. In this webinar, Matt Sand, President of 3DEO, covers everything it takes to transition your product to production with metal additive manufacturing, including:
- What are the benefits that metal 3D printing can bring to the medical device industry?
- Compare the economics of additive vs. traditional manufacturing
- Understand how cost plays a role in moving metal AM to production
- Choosing great candidate applications for AM production
- What are the challenges that are unique to medtech?
- Learn more about the two biggest 3D printing success stories in medtech: Align Technology Invisalign and Siemens hearing aids.
- How do you get started with metal 3D printing?
The material will be discussed in the context of real-world case studies in metal AM production at 3DEO and publicly available success stories such as medical implants and aerospace components. In addition, the economics of metal additive manufacturing will be covered so you can understand what it takes to build a winning business case.
Additive vs. Traditional Manufacturing
How are the economics of additive manufacturing (AM) different from traditional manufacturing and when is additive manufacturing right for you? Additive manufacturing has been around for many years but where are the production parts? Today, AM is great for one-off prototyping but not very common in serial, high-volume production.
When it comes to production, it is all about cost. Customers assume high quality, on-time delivery, and great customer service as given. In order to compete with traditional manufacturing, AM must compete on cost.
When breaking down the cost of production, where does AM have the advantage? Unlike traditional manufacturing, AM has little to no upfront tooling costs and low minimum order quantities. In addition to this, AM has short lead times, inexpensive ease of innovation, and low material waste. In terms of complexity, AM is able to print any geometry, essentially making the cost of complexity consistent across the board. On the other hand, traditional manufacturing increases costs exponentially as complexity increases.
In terms of cost vs. quantity, traditional manufacturing benefits from economies of scale while AM has a relatively flat cost curve. However, there is a threshold in low to medium volumes where AM has a lower cost per part than traditional manufacturing. Recent developments in AM technology, like 3DEO, are drastically lowering the AM cost curve to be more competitive with traditional.
Benefits of Metal AM in MedTech
- Mass Customization
- Complex Geometries
- Parts Consolidation
- Optimized Design for Function
- Fast Product Development Cycles
- Combination of Consolidation & Function
Challenges Unique to MedTech
There are a few challenges with AM that are unique to the medtech industry. One challenge is consistent part quality, especially in processes like laser sintering where hundreds of variables need to be controlled. Quality control is a huge problem in AM as an industry and 3DEO is working on improving our process controls. Other challenges include regulatory hurdles from the FDA, the economics not working out, lack of training in designing for additive manufacturing, and limited material options.
Production Success Stories: Align Technology
Align Technology disrupted the orthodontics industry with their clear aligner system, Invisalign. By partnering with 3D Systems, Align Technology is able to make 320,000 unique aligners per day for 6.8 million patients globally. This is a great example of mass customization in high volumes.
Production Success Stories: Siemens Hearing Aids
A vast majority of hearing aids are currently 3D printed, with Siemens making 10 million custom hearing aids worldwide. Siemens is able to achieve this from customization and automation in 3D printing.
How To Get Started
To get started with metal AM, customers have the option of bringing production in-house or outsourcing to service bureaus. To bring production in-house and start from scratch requires a massive investment and a few years of development before the first commercial sale. It can be a huge distraction to the core business. On top of this, extensive R&D into the infrastructure, and process is required by expert engineers and operators.
To successfully adopt additive manufacturing, you must understand the true costs and benefits, start small, develop an attitude of experimentation, and be committed to the long term. The easiest way to get started is to work with a service bureau like 3DEO that can contain costs, reduce risk, and educate customers.