What is the potential for 3D printing in the healthcare sector – and how do we make the most of the potential? These were the key issues on the agenda, as 70 participants from hospitals, universities and the health industry were gathered for a health conference at the Danish Technological Institute.
Danish Healthtech focuses on 3D printing, and how technology can be used in the healthcare sector. At the conference, there was a focus on both technological possibilities and concrete cases – but also on which issues exist in the area and how we get better at handling them.
The conference offered nine professional presentations, five clinical cases and two rounds of workshops, which together aimed at bringing the various actors – respectively companies, researchers and clinicians – together and give them a better insight into what is happening in the use of 3D printing in the health sector and let them network about future opportunities and collaborations. The various presentations presented exciting cases and relevant issues, and the 70 participants were excited from the start and both interested, professional and critical of the various presentations, and the debate was soon of to a good start.
Tailor-made solutions with optimal adaptation
Initially, there was a focus on 3D printing in a historical perspective, and how the technology has evolved over the years. Then a number of cases were presented as well as examples of how companies in and around the health sector enter the work with 3D printing. A presentation of how 3D printing has been used for inserts to stabilise a trachea, cartilage implants in titanium for knee joints, and hip implants, where there has been a need for a brand new joint to position the bone.
Common to the solutions has been, that 3D-printing has made it possible to create tailor-made solutions with optimal adaptation, which fits exactly to the individual patient, and which is also time-saving compared to alternative solutions.
The various presentations highlighted, that there is a need for building more competences within 3D printing, and it became clear that the legislation plays a role in the extent to which the technology can be disseminated in the health sector. Key questions were also raised as to where the 3D printers and competencies should be located – in the hospitals or with external suppliers – and how the interface and collaboration should be between clinicians and technicians. In this connection, one of the surgeons present raised the wish that the processes of using 3D-printing speeded up even more so that patients can finish treatment more quickly.
Progress in the health sector
The clinical cases also showed that 3D printing already plays an important role in the health sector, as in dentistry, printing of tissue or in connection with reconstructive operations – eg bones or other organs as a result of cancer nodes or acutely occurring injuries where it is essential that you can print quickly and at the same time make precise cutting guides for the surgeons.
One of those who is already using 3D-printed implants in titanium, is Martin Lamm, who is the chief physician and sector head of the Orthopedic Surgery Department at Aarhus University Hospital:
We have used 3D-printed implants for the last three years, and I would definitely think that we will be using several of the kinds of implants that are designed specifically for the individual patient. The patients we have treated are patients who would have been very difficult to treat with conventional techniques, and it’s opening up some new opportunities that we haven’t had before.
Inspiration for new collaborations
The afternoon offered two rounds of workshops within respectively tissue, plastic and metal, where the participants in the first round presented a number of ideas for the use of 3D printing, while the second round was about crystallising the ideas into more concrete projects and collaborations.
It has been exciting to have the different cases presented and at the same time hear what people perceive as barriers and opportunities in the area. We heard, for example, that someone perceives price as too high and delivery time as too long when it comes to deliveries of 3D prints from abroad, and at the same time we hear that there is still a lack of knowledge about 3D printing in metal. This confirms that the efforts we make in 3D metal printing in Denmark are to a large extent relevant, says Jeppe Skinnerup Byskov, Deputy Head of Industrial 3D Printing at the Danish Technological Institute.
The day was concluded with a tour of the Center for Industrial 3D Printing at the Danish Technological Institute, which was established in 2018 with the aim of demonstrating and developing the industrial potential of 3D printing in Denmark – also for the health sector.
The conference was organised by Danish Healthtech in collaboration with the Danish Technological Institute and the MedTech Innovation Consortium.
Ronnie Ranch Høgstrup
Danish Technological Institute (partner in Danish Healthtech)