Medtronic scientists and engineers ‘look beyond the apparent’ in pursuit of groundbreaking achievements.
3D printing isn’t really printing at all. The less-familiar term is additive manufacturing – building an object one very thin layer at a time – on a precision machine similar in size and shape to a printer.
Whatever you call it – 3D printing is opening a new frontier in healthcare.
“The rate of change of the technology is just mind boggling,” said Mark Bucheger, engineering director at Medtronic. “Each year the technology is improving to allow us to do more and more things.”
Imagine, for instance, a day when doctors identify your medical problem with a CAT scan or MRI. Then – using 3D printing technology – treat you with a medical tool, a product, or even an entire implantable device, built specific to you and your physiology.
“That's going to take some regulatory work, some development work, some manufacturing work to get there. But those are possibilities that are real,” said Michael Hill, Ph.D., vice president of corporate science, technology and clinical affairs at Medtronic.
“EARL BAKKEN TELLS US TO ‘LOOK BEYOND THE APPARENT.’ THAT’S MY PERSPECTIVE ON 3D PRINTING. NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE.”
-- Michael Hill, Ph.D.
POTENTIAL OF PERSONALIZED MEDICINE
Teams of Medtronic scientists and engineers are already working on the possibilities of such personalized medicine. They even envision a day when damaged human organs might be repaired with tissue, or replaced altogether with new organs, created on 3D printers.
“We are thinking that far ahead,” Hill said. “But it’s going to take time and determination. It's one thing to do a prototype, it's another thing to say we're actually going to do it for the long haul.”
It may be years before those kinds of ideas are fully developed, but 3D printing is already having a major impact on research and development.
"WE LIKE TO LEARN FAST, SO WE CAN ARRIVE AT THE FINAL PRODUCT IN A MUCH MORE RAPID FASHION.”
Mark Bucheger, engineering director